One of my patients, aged 58, had an initial hemoglobin A1c of 7.2%. She was taking oral hypoglycemic agents, statins, and proton pump inhibitors—the basic treatment for every diabetes diagnosis. The patient was 28 lbs overweight and worked long hours. She didn’t exercise, mostly ate a processed food diet, and was sleep deprived. The patient had a family history of diabetes, and ultimately her lifestyle expressed her genetic tendencies.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease (meaning there isn’t a “cure”) and tends to be progressive. The longer that someone has been living with Type 2 diabetes the less insulin their beta cells may be producing. This doesn’t mean that lifestyle modification is irrelevant–but does mean that individuals should work on accepting their Type 2 diabetes diagnosis so they can focus on managing their diabetes in the best way possible.
Dr. King said that even short-term remission would reduce or put off some of the serious complications associated with diabetes, like nerve damage, kidney damage, loss of vision, heart attacks and strokes. Yet structured weight loss programs are expensive and often not covered by insurance, and physicians — who are often not well-versed in nutrition — may not take the time to counsel patients about diet, Dr. King said.
Many studies show that lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy and increasing physical activity, can dramatically reduce the progression of Type 2 diabetes and may control Type 1 diabetes. These lifestyle changes can also help minimize other risk factors such as high blood pressure and blood cholesterol, which can have a negative impact on people with diabetes.