I was very enthralled by Marianne McAndrews' October 11th blog entitled "The Case for Diabetes Preventative Care and Earlier Intervention." In her submission, Marianne discusses recent studies suggesting the possibility for newly diagnosed patients to reverse their type 2 diabetes by committing to a weight loss program.
The research indicates that regeneration of pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin throughout the body can occur as a result of regular exercise and diet changes aimed at achieving weight loss.
While the jury is still out on the possibility that all newly-diagnosed type 2 patients can reverse their condition with a weight loss regimen, committing to healthier choices (including smart care management practices) is the only path to living an independent and higher quality life. To help in this effort, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) now offers a FREE (12-month) Living with Type 2 Diabetes Program that includes digital, printable journeys to help patients learn how to live well with diabetes; monthly e-newsletters with tips and resources for better care; a subscription to their Diabetes Forecast magazine; and access to their online community and local events.
One very useful tool that the ADA offers as part of this initiative is an infographic called "Which path will you choose to manage your type 2 diabetes?"
This infographic shows a series of choices made by two women with type 2 diabetes, Anna and Mary, from the initial diagnosis throughout four stages of time that passes. Each step shows the normal emotions these patients experience (including a sense of loss, fear, shock, anger, stress, and lack of control) and the degrees to which they manage these emotions. One path to successful diabetes management is clear.
- First Stage
Anna has difficulty accepting her diagnosis and rationalizes that she has too much going on in her life to let this condition bring her down. This justification gives her a false sense of control. (Unfortunately, this appears to be a popular reaction for many type 2 patients.)
Mary, on the other hand, reacts with more stress and shock than Anna and feels that she has no control over her new condition. Mary chooses to talk with family and friends about her diagnosis and determine what steps she should take to address her diabetes.
- Second Stage
In the next stage, Anna does not make healthy changes and only takes her medications when she "has time." She also skips appointments with her care providers. Conversely, Mary is working closely with her care provider, joins a type 2 support program, and starts making small but attainable healthy choices. She begins to experience feelings of control and less fear about her situation.
- Third Stage
Mary continues to stay on the right path despite some unhealthy choices she made. She knows it is a strict routine to follow, but she is feeling healthier. Unfortunately for Anna, her blood glucose level is so high that her vision becomes impaired. She is now more fearful, stressed out, and feels she has no sense of control.
- Fourth Stage
Anna's fear and stress levels are even higher as she runs the risk of developing life-threatening complications like heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, blindness, and even amputation. Mary's levels of fear and stress have decreased substantially in this stage, and her sense of control has skyrocketed! Mary is continuing to learn how to live well with diabetes, and she and her family are making healthier choices together.
This last aspect of Mary's commitment to managing her condition is a real watershed moment in my opinion. Getting your family to participate in a healthier lifestyle may very well be the best step we can take to prevent more type 2 diagnoses and help curb this global pandemic before it's too late.
Family "buy-in" is especially critical for minority and ethnic communities where the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is even higher compared to the rest of the country. It is not like alcoholism or another addictive drug problem. If one person in a family has type 2 diabetes, the potential for more family members to get type 2 is even higher when they share a common diet and a similar lifestyle. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the newly diagnosed type 2 patient to organize the "familial intervention."
Jumping back to the first stage of diagnosis, acknowledging your fears and asking for support is a highly critical step to gaining control over your situation. How many times have we heard about that parent or favorite relative who ignored doctor's orders because they "feel fine" and choose their work and family obligations as priorities over their health? On many occasions, the story is re-hashed in the funeral parlor during that loved one's wake!
With type 2 diabetes, time is of the essence! Making a plan to deal with your condition cannot be set aside for "when you have more time". If we can learn one thing from Anna and Mary's examples, the only path to living healthy with type 2 diabetes begins right at the diagnosis stage, and if the possibility of beta cell regeneration and a subsequent reversal of type 2 is a tangible possibility, why would you wait another minute to act?