A program that prevents diabetes also lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke. Here's how to prevent diabetes and gain the extra health benefits.
What if there was an inexpensive, non-drug way to prevent the most common form of diabetes and it could lower your risk for heart disease and stroke, too? While it may sound too good to be true, that’s exactly what a new study concludes. The key is turning around the condition known as prediabetes.
In all, about 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, marked by high levels of blood glucose (also called blood sugar). Some have type 1 diabetes, previously called juvenile diabetes, which usually starts in childhood and develops when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, the hormone that allows the body to use sugar for energy. However, the vast majority of Americans with diabetes — at least 90 percent — have the type 2 kind. Their pancreas still produces insulin, but cells are resistant to it.
Linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, type 2 diabetes most often strikes in middle-age and is typically preceded by the condition known as prediabetes. If you fall into the prediabetes category (and one in three Americans do), your blood glucose levels are higher than normal although not high enough for a full blown diabetes diagnosis — yet. But there’s a 15 to 30 percent risk you will develop type 2 diabetes in fewer than five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How to prevent diabetes
However, the CDC developed a national diabetes prevention program (DPP) centered around lifestyle changes aimed at turning the pre-diabetic state around and bringing blood glucose levels back into the normal range to prevent progression to diabetes. To see if the DPP approach worked, researchers at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health and the CDC pored through data from 44 published studies involving almost 9,000 adults who participated in DPPs conducted across the U.S. in community centers, medical clinics, and also offered, virtually, through online media.
The programs, a partnership of public and private organizations, helped participants make healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating better diets, becoming physically active, and learning how to cope with stress. To accomplish these goals, all the studied DPP programs had to meet specific standards set by the CDC.
For example, each was required to use a curriculum to help people in the program understand how to make lasting lifestyle changes, and a trained lifestyle health coach had to facilitate the program. The programs also had to submit data showing the impact their DDP had on participants’ health after one year.When the results were all analyzed, it turns out the lifestyle modification programs worked — in spades.
Not only did participants lose weight, but they also had positive metabolic changes. Blood sugar levels were reduced along with blood pressure and cholesterol levels, all factors that lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
"There are a number of studies that have shown that weight loss is achievable through diabetes prevention programs," said Mohammed K. Ali, MD, associate professor of Global Health at Emory. “Our study goes further by estimating the aggregate metabolic changes that can be achieved."Identifying people with prediabetes and enrolling them in DPPs could be a crucial way to halt the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes and prevent a host of health problems associated with the condition, according to Ali. The National Institute of Health points out diabetes is a leading cause of early death, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness.To find a CDC recognized diabetes prevention program, visit the CDC’s Find a Program Near You page.
February 28, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN