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Moderate weight loss proves important tool in diabetes fight

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union
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Weight Loss Strategies

Diet: According to Harvard Medical School, reducing daily calorie intake by 250-500 calories is typically a safe and effective way to lose a moderate amount of weight over time. They recommend skipping the fad diets and focusing on these simple strategies:

— Eat high-fat, high-calorie foods less often.

— Eat smaller portions of high-fat, high-calorie foods.

— Substitute lower-fat, lower-calorie alternatives whenever possible.

Exercise: Regular exercise is also a key component to diabetes management as well as weight loss. According to Harvard Medical School, when you’re active, insulin works more effectively. Their tips for using exercise to help lose weight:

— Walking. People with diabetes who walked two hours a week are less likely to die of heart disease.

— Resistance training. Combining resistance training with aerobic exercise helps to lower insulin resistance in older adults.

— All forms of exercise (aerobic, resistance and combination) are equally good at lowering HbA1c values in people with diabetes.

If you’re unsure how to start an exercise plan, try aiming for a moderate paced walk every day, adding a bit more distance each time. Talk to your doctor about possibly adding higher impact cardiovascular exercise and/or weight training.

More than 30 million Americans – nearly 10 percent of the population – are living with diabetes (according to the American Diabetes Association). Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, contributing to more than a quarter million deaths every year.

Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes. This is because over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart.

The good news is that diabetes is a disease that can not only be managed but it can also be prevented (in the case of Type 2 diabetes). And, in some cases, diabetes can actually be reversed.

November is National Diabetes Month, a time when families, health care providers and communities across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes.

Among the steps recommended to help manage diabetes:

— Stop smoking or using other tobacco products.

— Manage your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

— Develop or maintain healthy lifestyle habits. Be more physically active and learn ways to manage stress.

— Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor.

In addition, a new study says that one of the most effective steps anyone diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes can make is to lose weight – specifically, 10 percent of their body weight.

Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the disease. It is a metabolic condition characterized by the body’s inability to sufficiently process glucose (sugar). As a result, blood sugar levels are persistently high.

Typical treatment for Type 2 diabetes includes lifestyle modifications, medication and diet management.

While management of symptoms is the usual goal for those diagnosed with diabetes, sometimes “remission” is possible. Remission occurs when treatment and lifestyle changes combine to drastically decrease or even eliminate symptoms. Once in remission, treatment is no longer needed.

Earlier this year, a team of specialists from the University of Cambridge, in Great Britain, studied whether a moderate diet could possibly put Type 2 diabetes into remission.

Their findings were published in September in the journal Diabetic Medicine. They found that study participants who had lost at least 10 percent of their body weight within five years of their Type 2 diabetes diagnosis were more than twice as likely to experience remission at the five-year follow-up, compared with individuals who had not lost any weight.

While previous studies had found that very extreme, low-calorie diets could also put diabetes into remission, the Cambridge study is the first to show that a moderate (in this case, 10 percent of body weight) weight loss could achieve the same goal.

Researchers emphasize that their findings show just how important consistent dietary and lifestyle interventions are in managing — and even reversing — diabetes.

So, what does this research mean for men and women living with the condition? It shows that for most people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it is worth talking to your doctor about whether including a weight loss strategy in your treatment plan could be beneficial to you.

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