Did you know that about 25% of people over age 65 have diabetes? Simply put, diabetes is “too much sugar in your blood.” Over a period of years, it can do serious damage to your nerves, blood vessels and organs and lead to devastating consequences if left untreated, including heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and blindness. However, reversing type 2 diabetes could be possible.
The increase in type 2 diabetes coincided with the obesity epidemic, starting back in the 1990s. Today, two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. We now know that obesity is the No. 1 modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes. We also know that type 2 diabetes is often due to insulin resistance, a condition in which your pancreas is secreting adequate insulin, yet your cells are not able to utilize it effectively. It is thought that insulin resistance is due primarily to excess fat accumulation in skeletal muscle.
Can type 2 diabetes be reversed?
You may have heard that type 2 diabetes may be prevented or even reversed. How is this possible? It may be true if you are obese and your diabetes is primarily due to insulin resistance. Lab tests can be done to confirm this. Obesity is measured by BMI (Body Mass Index), and a BMI of 30 or greater is obese.
Obesity is often due to a combination of lifestyle factors: poor diet, excessive calorie intake and sedentary lifestyle. Our addiction to fast food, heavily laden with excess fat, sugar and “supersize” portions, along with our sedentary lifestyle, has led to an obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic. But you can take control of your health, and possibly reverse your diabetes, by eating healthier, exercising and losing weight.
The Diabetes Prevention Program, or DPP Study, showed a 58% chance of preventing type 2 diabetes or reversing it by losing weight, eating healthy and exercising. The program worked particularly well for adults age 60 or older, with the percentage increasing to 71%.
Recommendations from this study included: losing a minimum of 7% of your body weight if you are overweight or obese, eating fewer calories and exercising a minimum of 150 minutes per week.
How do you get started?
Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming! I recommend making small changes that can be built upon over time. Remember the goal is to lead a healthier lifestyle, so the changes should be permanent. It has been well documented that “fad” diets don’t work. Instead, choose two healthy lifestyle changes that you can realistically achieve. Once those have been incorporated into your daily routine, choose two more and so on.
For example, you could set your goals to eat more vegetables and green salads, stop drinking soda and walk for 30 minutes every day.
What does a healthy diet look like?
Diet recommendations for diabetes are the same as for heart disease and other chronic diseases. All of the research supports plant-based diets such as the Mediterranean diet. Incorporate plenty of leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, avocados and fish into your diet. Cut way back on red meats, fried foods, fast foods and sweets. The Healthy Eating Plate advises to fill half of your plate with leafy greens and vegetables, one quarter of your plate with lean protein, and one quarter of your plate with whole grains. Add some healthy fat such as olive oil, and a small serving of fruit for dessert.
The health benefits you may expect to see once converting to a plant-based diet are numerous. They include weight loss, improved blood sugar control, improved blood pressure and cholesterol ratios, prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases, more energy and improved mood.
Eating healthy can also be fun and delicious. Be creative with your meals, try new foods or buy a heart healthy cookbook. Consider purchasing a grill or an air fryer, and throw that deep fat fryer away! Below is an easy Heart Healthy Recipe that you may wish to try. Good luck and remember, you can achieve anything you set your mind to!
SPINACH SALAD with MANGO, GOAT CHEESE, AND WALNUTS
- 1 Bag baby spinach (6 oz)
- 1 Sliced mango
- 1/2 Cup walnut halves
- 4 oz Goat cheese crumbles
- ¼ Cup organic balsamic vinaigrette dressing, mixed with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Toss all ingredients together and enjoy a powerhouse of flavor and nutrients!