Basic (and Easy) Ways to Avoid Diabetes

Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D.

and Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O.

Diabetes is a medical condition in which a person’s blood glucose (often called blood sugar) is too high. While the blood always has some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy to keep you going, too much circulating glucose can lead to problems with the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth. The most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. The World Health Organization reports that heart disease accounts for approximately 50 percent of all deaths among people with diabetes in industrialized countries.

Type 2 diabetes (adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes) is the most common form of diabetes. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. This form of diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which fat, muscle and liver cells do not use insulin properly. At first the pancreas keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin. In time, however, it loses the ability to secrete enough insulin in response to meals. Being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), recently compiled data show that approximately 150 million people have diabetes mellitus worldwide, and that this number may well double by the year 2025. The International Diabetes Federation reports that a person with diabetes incurs medical costs that are two to five times higher than those of a person without diabetes. This is due to more frequent medical visits, purchase of supplies and medication and the higher likelihood of being admitted to a hospital.

Research studies have found that moderate weight loss and exercise can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes among adults at high-risk of the condition. As such, preventive measures may delay the onset of diabetes, and help manage the condition in people who have it. In this article, we present potential preventive strategies for consideration.

Packing on the Pounds Increases Diabetes Risk. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight. A 2005 study by researchers at University of Newcastle upon Tyne found that men and women with a higher body fat and higher waist-hip ratio adults are more likely to have increased insulin resistance, a risk marker for type 2 diabetes. Childhood factors, such as birth weight and nutrition, were found to have little impact in the risk for developing diabetes, discounting the notion that poor health in later life can result from earlier experiences.

Diabetics at Increased Risk of Heart Disease. Diabetics with a particular form of a blood protein, called haptoglobin, have as much as a 500 percent increased risk of developing heart disease. In a study by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel, researchers found that Vitamin E supplements (both natural and mixed forms) helped diabetic men and women who have the 2-2 form of haptoglobin to reduce their risk of heart attacks and dying from diabetes-related heart disease. It is estimated that 40 percent of diabetics have this blood protein variant, so as many as two of every five diabetics could benefit from taking Vitamin E supplements.

Delay Diabetes. New data models derived from the Diabetes Prevention Project by the University of Michigan Health System show that men and women who walked briskly for 30 minutes five days a week, lowered their fat and calorie intake and achieved a weight-reduction goal of 7 percent of body weight over a three-year period were able to cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Exercise Melts Pounds, Wards Off Diabetes. Physical activity can help diabetics control their blood glucose, weight and blood pressure, raise their “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower their “bad” cholesterol (LDL). It can also help prevent heart and blood flow problems, reducing the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes. Generally, diabetics should engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity are walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming or bicycling. If you are not accustomed to physical activity, you may want to start with a little exercise, and work your way up. As you become stronger, you can add a few extra minutes to your physical activity. Do some physical activity every day, rather than an extended period of activity once a week. According to the WHO, even moderate reduction in weight and only half an hour of walking each day reduced the incidence of diabetes by more than half.

“Diabetes prevention is proven, possible and powerful,” reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Weight loss through physical activity is one of the most dramatic ways in which you can reduce your odds of succumbing to diabetes and the potentially adverse medical effects of the disease.

Drs. Goldman and Klatz are the co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement and serve, respectively, as chairman and president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of technology to detect, prevent and treat aging-related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimize the human aging process.

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