November is National Diabetes Month, and with Thanksgiving just ahead I’d like to express my gratitude to my patients with diabetes and prediabetes. I am tremendously fortunate to have had the privilege of working with thousands of people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes throughout my 20+ years of medical practice. Every week I see patients at the Diabetes Reversal Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and serve as the Medical Director for the Boston Heart Lifestyle Program serving thousands of patients with type 2 diabetes and related risk factors. I am also grateful for the opportunity to serve as a diabetes expert for WebMD, including 5 great years leading the WebMD Diabetes Community.
I’m thankful that Type 2 Diabetes can be “reversed”. Although the condition is not curable, “remission” is often possible. Diabetes remission is when the blood sugar levels are normal or nearly normal (for example a hemoglobin A1c level that decreases to 6.0% or less) without diabetes medication. Diabetes remission typically requires healthy eating habits, exercise, and weight loss. Losing 15 percent of body weight (typically in the 35 to 45 pound range) will often achieve remission (or near-remission) of type 2 diabetes. I’m thankful that so many patients who work with me are ready and able to make such lifestyle changes. These individuals find that the rewards are worth the effort. The rewards might include feeling better, greater confidence, better mobility, and reduced need for medication. We often see improved blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood levels of inflammation and lipids (cholesterol). Weight losses of 5 or 10 percent also dramatically improve diabetes, even without a full diabetes remission. When healthy lifestyle habits and weight losses are maintained over time, the diabetes remissions are also maintained. I have had patients with diabetes remissions lasting for a decade with no signs of relapse! For that I give thanks.
I’m thankful that Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented. About one in three adults in the U.S. currently have prediabetes, and the vast majority of these individuals do not know they have it! In many cases healthy lifestyle changes and weight loss can prevent prediabetes from advancing to diabetes. Furthermore, in some cases prediabetes can go into remission as a result of the same lifestyle changes that prevent or reverse diabetes, and for that I give thanks.
I’m thankful that preventing or reversing diabetes helps reduce heart attacks, strokes, and premature deaths. It also saves eyes, kidneys, and limbs. It reduces hospitalizations, excess medications, and saves the healthcare system from related costs. Diabetes reversal and prevention efforts can make a tremendous difference, and I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to help patients achieve their health goals and improve the healthcare system in the process.
If you have diabetes, prediabetes, heart disease risk factors, or are overweight, I am pleased that there are a number of programs and support systems to help. If you would like to learn about our personalized nutrition and life plan option to help you improve your heart health, check out the Boston Heart Lifestyle Program.
For all these reasons I give thanks this November for all of the patients who have made my life richer in our joint efforts to reverse and prevent diabetes and related conditions.