January is the time of year when millions of people vow to make meaningful health changes such as losing weight, eating better, and exercising in earnest. Adopting these healthy habits is especially important for people who have Type 2 diabetes or are prediabetic. According to the latest statistics from the National Institutes of Health, approximately 37 million American adults have diabetes (including 8.5 million who are undiagnosed) and a whopping 96 million (one in three) are prediabetic. We spoke to Dr. Peggy Nelson, a board-certified endocrinologist at Crystal Run Healthcare who specializes in diabetes and metabolism, about the latest facts you need to know.
Q. Can diet and exercise reverse diabetes?
A. The lifestyle required for someone with Type 2 diabetes to reduce and/or prevent diabetic complications is in many ways no different from the lifestyle that all individuals should adopt to live healthier lives: a well-balanced, low-carb meal plan, regular cardiovascular exercise (like jogging or swimming), and a healthy mindset armed with techniques to eliminate stress.
Q. The CDC predicts a 70 percent increase in young people with diabetes by 2060. Why?
A. When children are fed an abundance of high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich foods and lead sedentary lifestyles that result in a prematurely elevated body mass index, we increase their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. The habits we teach kids today will be the same habits they adopt as young adults.
Q. How strong is genetics when it comes to developing type 2 diabetes?
A. Genetics is a strong component. If one parent has Type 2 diabetes, their kids have approximately a 40 percent chance of developing it. The risk is even higher when both parents have the disease. Type 2 diabetes has both genetic and environmental risk factors for its development. Much can be done to manage the environmental (lifestyle) component in reducing an individual’s risk.
Q. What are the latest treatments?
A. The advancements that have truly impacted the day-to-day practice of diabetes management include, but are not limited to, the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1) and the newer dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptor medications. Both classes of medications have proven to be essential in reshaping a patient’s approach to food, weight, and glycemic control. In addition, newer updated tech devices made available via continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems continue to advance diabetes care and improve the patient’s quality of life. Achieving glycemic control continues to be an ongoing quest with the overall goal to stop diabetes in its tracks!
Q. What are the most essential things we all can do to avoid a diabetes diagnosis?
A. The most important things to do are:
- Eat well. Prepare meals with healthy proteins, green leafy vegetables, and portion-controlled high-fiber starches.
- Exercise daily. Get your 10,000 steps in every day.
- Keep stress to a minimum. Have a plan for destressing—breath work, yoga, or meditation—whatever works for you.
- Get help. Don’t do it alone! Enlist family, friends, and health care providers on your journey to a healthier you!