Type 2 Diabetes: Lifestyle wakeup call


By Dr. Eric Reines

Diabetes is an increasing concern in the United States and among those 55 years of age and older, cases are growing disproportionately. The most common form of diabetes diagnosed in those 55 and older is Type 2 diabetes. An individual with Type 2 diabetes produces insulin but doesn’t use it efficiently. This is what’s referred to as insulin resistance.

For many, a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes is a wakeup call for lifestyle modifications that may include changes in diet and exercise routines. Without a proactive response to Type 2 diabetes, a diagnosis can be the beginning of declining health with serious consequences.

Under the right circumstances, the disease can be improved and even reversed through appropriate diet and exercise programs that are under the direction of a primary care physician and other health and wellness professionals. In addition to diet and exercise, it’s important to take other potential factors into consideration — life’s stressors, for example, that may be impacting the individual’s ability to exercise or eat right.

Identifying solutions that address all facets of one’s wellness, and then building a plan for success, is the best approach.

Weight, blood pressure and cholesterol control are key elements in the management of Type 2 diabetes. For example, a reduction of body weight by only 5 percent results in a significant reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Healthy eating, regular exercise and not smoking are all important factors in reducing risk.

In addition to the health benefits, losing weight and exercise are proven to improve mood and overall mental health. So the mental health benefits of being active can accrue to one’s benefit.

The alternative for those who can’t, or won’t, remain active and eat right is not pleasant. Without proper management, Type 2 diabetes becomes a serious chronic condition that can’t be reversed. Over time, the disease can have grave health consequences. Initially, kidney function may suffer, potentially leading to kidney disease and consequently, mobility limitations. In addition, heart and brain function can also be compromised, further restricting independence.

In advanced cases of Type 2 diabetes, loss of eyesight and feeling in the hands and feet are common and in extreme cases, amputation of limbs can result. These issues can be avoided with proactive and aggressive management of the disease.

For those who aren’t mobile, wheelchair or chair exercises have been very successful in helping patients with Type 2 diabetes. Also, adhering to a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains can make a big difference and improve one’s health, even when mobility is limited.

Finally, in treating Type 2 diabetes, insulin is a proven, safe therapy as well.

Eric Reines, MD, is a primary care physician and coordinator of the diabetes study for PACE at Element Care in Lynn, MA. For More information call 877-803-5564 or visit www.elementcare.org. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.