For many years, I watched my grandfather suffer from type 2 diabetes. He had to constantly watch what he ate and was on medications. I know that family history plays a big part in developing different diseases. I talked to Thomas Hurst, MD, from The Christ Hospital Diabetes & Endocrine Center to learn more about type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and how I can avoid developing them.
I have had friends that learned they were prediabetic from a routine blood test, so I wondered what exactly that meant. Dr. Hurst explained, "Prediabetes is a term to describe higher than average blood sugars that are not quite high enough to reach the threshold of type 2 diabetes. Individuals with prediabetes are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes." He also said that prediabetes is typically diagnosed with a Hemoglobin A1c performed by your doctor and is a condition without any symptoms. This a very common condition, as over 88 million Americans have prediabetes.
I wondered if I was diagnosed with prediabetes, could I turn it around? Dr. Hurst said yes! But it would require lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and losing weight. He says studies have shown that individuals with prediabetes can decrease their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 50 percent with weight loss through healthy living and increased physical activity.
Prevention of type 2 diabetes
Ok, so you are told that you are prediabetic. Does that mean you will develop type 2 diabetes? According to Dr. Hurst, there are ways to prevent that from happening, but once again it would require a lifestyle change. Losing weight through healthy eating and physical activity is key. He also says that there is a medication called metformin that lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. He also says, for some, bariatric surgery is a good option to address weight and lower their risk of prediabetes progressing to diabetes.
Treating type 2 diabetes
So, once you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, how can you treat it? Like I mentioned, I watched my grandfather take medications, and he always had to watch what he ate. I wondered if you could treat it without medication. Dr. Hurst said explained, "Type 2 diabetes is treated both by lifestyle changes and medication. Some individuals can be 'diet controlled'— meaning that they do not need medications—and can control blood sugars through a low-carbohydrate diet. There are several medications to treat diabetes that include pills, injections that are not insulin, as well as insulin."
I also asked if type 2 diabetes was reversible. Dr. Hurst said it is uncommon, but some people have remission of type 2 diabetes where their blood sugars go back to normal.
He also said, "More commonly, blood sugars can be controlled with a low-carbohydrate diet, often with the addition of one or two medications. We know that keeping the blood sugars under good control is key to preventing the complications of diabetes such as kidney disease, amputations, blindness, heart disease and stroke."
Resources and experts available at The Christ Hospital
Dr. Hurst had this to say about getting help at The Christ Hospital: "We have a large team of endocrinologists, doctors and nurse practitioners with expertise in diabetes management. In addition, the diabetes education team provides amazing support in helping those with type 2 diabetes find ways to manage diabetes on a day-to-day basis through diet, exercise and medications. We also have inpatient endocrinologists—both physicians and nurse practitioners—who round on our diabetic patients as well as diabetes educators who can provide education and resources to patients while admitted to the hospital. They also ensure follow up with one of our endocrinology physicians or nurse practitioners. Our excellent primary care physicians provide care to thousands of patients with type 2 diabetes as well."
Knowing that family history plays such a big part in the possibility of developing diabetes, I know that I need to make sure I am living a healthy lifestyle and get bloodwork done to keep an eye on my levels. I also know that The Christ Hospital has many options and education to help anyone that develops diabetes.
Learn more about The Christ Hospital Diabetes & Endocrine Center.