Can You Avoid or Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 86 million Americans—or one in three adults—have prediabetes. What’s more alarming is that 9 out of 10 of them don’t realize that they’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Yet type 2 diabetes, unlike type 1 diabetes, is preventable. It also occurs in far more individuals — more than 30 million Americans are currently living with type 2 compared to under 1 million Americans with type 1 diabetes.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes means that your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes is not actually a disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.
But if it is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can easily lead to type 2 diabetes. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body produces less insulin (a hormone that helps glucose get into the cells of the body) than required and cannot properly use insulin. If ignored or poorly treated, type 2 diabetes can cause blindness, kidney failure, or loss of sensation in feet or legs.
Type 2 diabetes increases the chances of getting a heart attack or stroke.
Preventing type 2 diabetes and complications
The good news, according to Dr. Rajesh Garg, co-director of clinical diabetes at the University of Miami Health System, is that prediabetes can be reversed before any illness actually occurs.
“Compared to type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is preventable to a large degree,” says Garg. “We need to get the word out that through dietary changes, physical activity, and weight loss, many patients can prevent a prediabetic condition from progressing to type2 diabetes.”
Dr. Garg also shares that if one does become diabetic, it is no longer a given that it will proceed to complications like blindness, kidney failure, loss of toes and feet or heart attack.
“The way we treat diabetes these days is very different even from 10 years ago,” says Garg. “People can almost live a normal life, and do all the things they want to do while achieving excellent control of their diabetes. We have the expertise to help most patients control their diabetes and avoid the disease’s complications.”
If two or more of the following risk factors apply to you, speak to your healthcare provider about blood glucose testing, even if you don’t think you have diabetes.
A fasting blood sugar or A1C test is the most effective means of confirming a prediabetes or diabetes diagnosis.
- High lipid levels or high blood pressure
- Parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes
- Physically active fewer than three days per week
- Gave birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds
- Had gestational diabetes while pregnant
- African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Pacific Islander or (some) Asian American
The age factor: obesity and young adults
It used to be that those diagnosed with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes were always at least 45 years old, explains Garg. Of great concern lately, however, is a shift to seeing these conditions in younger and younger people.
“We now see a whole spectrum of ages, including people in their twenties and thirties,” he shares. “This may be a result of the obesity epidemic. Community physicians are the frontline in dealing with type 2 diabetes.” There is a huge need nationally of educating primary care doctors better.
Garg and colleagues present regularly to primary care physicians in the community and at nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital. By teaching the doctors how to treat diabetes with new drugs and technology, progress can be made and complications of diabetes can be prevented.
“No one should have to have such an advanced disease that amputations and other terrible complications occur,” he explains. “These things are now preventable, and we need everyone’s help to share that message.”
UHealth has established a Comprehensive Diabetes Center at the Lennar Foundation Medical Center, 5555 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables. Patients receive personalized and comprehensive care at this center. For more information, call (305) 689-5555.
Written by a staff writer at UHealth.