Healthbeat: There's still time to turn back the clock on diabetes
Updated: May 2, 2011 12:44PM
More than 25 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Associates. Even more shocking is the estimated number of Americans who are considered pre-diabetic: 79 million -- approximately 25 percent of the population. Fortunately, those at risk have more control over their well-being than they may realize. Although medications such as pills and insulin are sometimes required to help control the disease, the patient's ability to "turn back the clock on diabetes" is best done with good dietary choices and with regular exercise.
Depending on the level of glucose elevation at the time of diagnosis, some patients can reverse the process, controlling the disease initially without the addition of medications. Patients with only mild to moderate elevations of their blood glucose may be able to return to having normal blood glucose levels with education from a dietitian and follow through to make wise dietary decisions. In addition, whether working with an exercise therapist or simply increasing the amount of time one exercises is a mandatory part of reversing and/or controlling diabetes.
As most patients with type 2 diabetes are obese, the mainstay of treatment for the diabetic is diet and exercise. With good dietary choices and regular exercise the goal of this therapy is to reduce weight. Weight reduction will often result in improvement of insulin and glucose levels. Because the long term complications of type 2 diabetes are directly related to elevations of blood glucose, diabetics should make blood glucose control the main priority. This is best achieved through weight loss, appropriate food consumption and routine exercise.
The diagnosis and treatment of type 2 diabetes has evolved greatly since the discovery of insulin in the 1920s. Multiple oral medications have become available, many in the last 10-20 years. New forms of insulin have been developed and devices such as insulin pumps for delivery have evolved; however, as the medical profession moves forward to help ensure good quality of life while living with type 2 diabetes, the first and best treatment still remains in the hands of each diabetic to turn back the clock on diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is one of the most common chronic medical conditions affecting millions of people worldwide. The disease is defined as an elevation of the glucose (sugar) concentration in the blood, and the diagnosis can be confirmed by several different blood tests. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in adults, but teenagers and children can be diagnosed as well. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include a family history of type 2 diabetes, increasing age, obesity, inactivity and use of certain medications, especially steroids.
Insulin is the hormone in our body that is responsible for keeping blood glucose levels normal. As blood glucose levels start to rise after eating a meal, insulin is released from the pancreas into the blood stream where it then assists in the transfer of glucose from the blood into the cells of the body. The cells then use the glucose as the main energy source of the body. Whereas patients with type 1 diabetes have a lack of insulin when diagnosed, patients with type 2 diabetes have insulin levels that are often higher than normal for months to years prior to the time the diagnosis is made. In type 2 diabetes the body is unable to respond correctly to the usual or even high levels of insulin causing blood glucose level to rise.
Once the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is confirmed treatment is usually initiated by a team of medical professionals including a physician, diabetes nurse educator, dietitian and sometimes an exercise therapist.
Dr. Terrence Swade is an endocrinologist on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.
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