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In residency, as I was studying to become a doctor, I clearly remember one of my instructors referring to diabetes as a “metabolic cancer.” She said that the disease ravaged the body like a cancer, destroying the eyes, limbs, kidneys and in fact, every organ in the body. She said that she had to choose between Hodgkin’s disease (a cancer of the immune system) or diabetes, she would choose Hodgkin’s since it is 95% curable and diabetes is with you forever, slowly devastating your body.
We all know someone who has been affected by this disease. There is plenty written on how to manage it once you have it. I’d like to address those people who are “prediabetic”. Prediabetes or “borderline diabetes” is characterized by a blood sugar that may be normal some days and too high other days. People with prediabetes are usually overweight and have a diet rich in refined carbohydrates like white breads, cereals and pasta. It is estimated that 79 million Americans have prediabetes.
For those of you who have prediabetes or have loved ones with prediabetes, it’s important to know that it can be cured. Take care of yourself now so that you don’t have to live with type 2 diabetes (the most common form of diabetes) in the future. One of the most promising evidence-based intervention programs in this country is the National Diabetes Prevention program
. It is based on the research study that was led by the National Institutes of Health
and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
. The study demonstrated that modest weight loss of 5% to 7% of body weight and increased physical activity of 150 minutes a week reduced the risk of people with prediabetes developing type 2 diabetes by approximately 58%. Participants in the study that were given a diabetes drug rather than making the lifestyle changes showed a reduced conversion of only 31%. The original study was conducted ten years ago and then repeated recently to show that the intervention actually works and survives the test of time.
What does this mean? There is hope. There is no magic pill, but the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be significantly reduced with modest weight loss and exercise. If you know someone with prediabetes, encourage them to “cure” it now. For more information on prediabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association’s website at diabetes.org