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HEALTHY REASONING: Can You Reverse Diabetes?

HEALTHY REASONING: Can You Reverse Diabetes?

By Allan Bucka Jones
Pride Health Columnist

Our community and the wider community is in the midst of a diabetes epidemic. Nine million Canadians have diabetes or pre-diabetes. The Black community is disproportionately affected. Diabetes affects the body from head to toe. It can lead to a stroke, blindness, heart attacks, erectile dysfunction, kidney disease, high blood pressure, neuropathy, limb amputations plus other maladies.

Due to the problems encountered by diabetics, they are vulnerable to misleading claims and advertising, and are made to believe that diabetes can be reversed.

Diabetes cannot be reversed or eliminated. It can be controlled.

Dr. Ann Albright, Director of Diabetes Translation at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “The term ‘reversal’ is used when people can go off medication but still must engage in a lifestyle program in order to stay off.”

While certain lifestyle changes, like exercise and healthy eating, are key to managing diabetes, whether you can actually turn back time so that it’s like you never had diabetes at all, is a different matter.

Shedding extra pounds and keeping them off can help you better control your blood sugar.

For some people, reaching a healthier weight will mean taking fewer medications, or in rarer cases, no longer needing those medications at all.

Losing 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight and building up to 140 minutes of exercise a week may help you to slow or stop the progress of type 2 diabetes. If you take public transport like a bus, get off one stop earlier, and walk the rest of the way. Park your car at the far end of the mall, giving yourself an opportunity to be active. Walk to your mailbox. Circle the block where you live each day. Do something that gets you moving with a goal of achieving at least 20 minutes each day.

There is proof that becoming active can help to control type 2 diabetes. In one study, people with type 2 diabetes exercised for 175 minutes a week, limited their calories to 1,200 to 1,800 per day, and got weekly counseling and education on these lifestyle changes.

Within a year, about 10 percent  got off their diabetes medications or improved to the point where their blood sugar level was no longer in the diabetes range, and was instead classified as pre-diabetes.

Results were best for those who lost the most weight or who started the program with less severe or newly diagnosed diabetes. Fifteen to 20 percent of these people were able to stop taking their diabetes medications. This is not reversal or elimination of diabetes, it is control of diabetes.

The earlier in the course of the diabetes that you make lifestyle changes, the more likely you are to stack the deck in your favor, that you will not progress to a more severe case of diabetes.

Your weight and lifestyle aren’t the only things that matter. Your genes also influence whether you get type 2 diabetes. Some thin people are living with type 2 diabetes too.

Still, your weight and lifestyle are things you can change, and they are important parts of your overall health.

After you reduce your weight and become active, the objective is to achieve your best heath. Different people need different approaches to achieve their best health. For some, a combination of medication and healthy habits will keep them at their best.

You need to maintain the lifestyle changes that have reduced your blood sugar level, and may have caused you to come off or reduce your diabetic medications. If you do not, then the blood sugar level will rise and you are again a full-fledged diabetic. This is why diabetes cannot be reversed (meaning eliminated), it can only be controlled by ongoing adherence to the changes that have caused the blood sugar reduction. 

Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. He can be heard on “Allan Bucka Jones LIVE”, Sundays from 3 to 5pm on CHRY 105.5 FM, www.chry.fm option RDO.to , Rogers Digital Cable 945, Bell Fibe 973 or mobile app TuneIn Radio. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at ajones@jjmedical.ca.

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