Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice. It’s not recommended to make any changes without consulting and being under the watchful guidance of your health care provider. This is especially important if you are diagnosed with a condition and/or on any kind of medication.
According to the CDC, 415 million people worldwide have diabetes as of 2022 and it is predicted that over half a billion people will have diabetes by 2040. If trends don’t change, one in three adults could have diabetes by 2050.
Diabetes and its complications cost the U.S. about $327 billion annually. Around 38% of American adults have prediabetes, which is around 96 million people, and about 5-15 percent of those will progress to diabetes per year. Diabetes doubles the risk of heart disease and stroke, and is the leading cause of blindness, end stage renal disease and amputations. It makes up 17 percent of all deaths for adults 25 or older.
Obesity Is a major risk factor for diabetes. Nearly 70 percent of adults are overweight or obese and around 85 percent of people with diabetes are overweight or obese. Losing weight would significantly lower the risk of diabetes and reduce the social and economical costs.
Now for the uplifting part: you can prevent type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
Often the conversation about diabetes focuses on high blood sugar, which is definitely important. However, high blood sugar is more of a symptom than a cause. The main cause of diabetes and prediabetes is a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs from an accumulation of excess fat in certain tissues that are not meant to store a lot of fat, specifically the muscle and liver cells.
An accumulation of fat can clog up the cells and turn off the ability to use insulin. Insulin is what opens up the cells to allow the sugar from the blood to enter. As a result, glucose gets stuck in the bloodstream and one gets high blood sugar and all the problems that go along with it.
There are a lot of variables to consider that influence one’s blood glucose. Generally speaking, you should avoid refined carbs (white bread, sweets, sugary drinks) and eat a nutrient-dense diet with lots of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats (monounsaturated fats like those found in avocado, fish, nuts, and olive oil and polyunsaturated fats like those found in tofu, nuts, and seeds). Adding some activity in there will also make a huge difference.
Making a diet or lifestyle change can be powerful—but it’s often hard to do on your own. Fortunately, there is support out there. If you have prediabetes or are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you may qualify for the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which is covered by both Medicare and Medicaid (as well as some private insurers). The DPP was launched by the CDC after a multi-year study showed that it had great results. A year on the lifestyle program reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Adults over 60 reduced their risk by 71%. For the study group that took Metformin instead, the risk was decreased by 31%.
Weight loss was the predominant predictor for the decreased risk in developing type 2 diabetes. For every 2.2 lbs of weight loss, the diabetes risk decreased by 13 percent. Participants who decreased the most fat intake in the diet showed the greatest decrease in risk for every kilogram of weight loss. There are two major goals for the participants of the program:
1) If weight needs to be lost, losing 5 to 7 percent of the participants’ weight in the first six months, and
2) Working in up to 150 minutes or more per week of moderate-intensity exercise.
Portland has DPP programs and they are often covered by health insurance. Providence’s version, which is excellent, is called PREVENT. OHSU also offers a DPP program. The programs are fun, informative and offer a lot of support.