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Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Lifestyle Changes That Make a Difference

functional medicine functional nutrition information Nov 07, 2023

By Jennifer Engels, MD

Type 2 diabetes is a widespread and growing health concern affecting millions worldwide. According to the CDC, over 37 million Americans have diabetes, and approximately 90-95 percent have Type 2 diabetes. Usually, it develops in individuals over 45, but increasing numbers of children, teens, and young adults are developing it. 

One of the worst things about Type 2 diabetes is that it greatly increases the likelihood of your falling victim to cancer, heart disease and stroke, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, nerve damage, kidney disease, and vision loss, among others. 

The good news is that it's a largely preventable condition, and understanding the role of lifestyle changes is pivotal in reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In this article, we’ll delve into preventive measures and lifestyle changes that can significantly lower your chances of developing this chronic disease.

Understanding Prediabetes and Insulin Resistance

Before we discuss prevention, it's crucial to understand both prediabetes and insulin resistance. Prediabetes is a condition characterized by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes. It's a warning sign, indicating that without intervention, full-blown diabetes may develop.

Insulin resistance, on the other hand, occurs when the body's cells do not respond effectively to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. As a result, glucose remains in the bloodstream, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance often precedes prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Diet and Lifestyle Reversal

Diet and lifestyle modifications are among the most effective ways to combat prediabetes and insulin resistance. Here are some key strategies that can make a significant difference:

  • Balanced Diet: Focus on a balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, predominantly vegetables, low glycemic fruit and healthy fats. Reduce consumption of sugary and highly processed foods. This helps control blood sugar spikes and promotes overall health.
  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can improve insulin sensitivity and help manage weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly exercise, such as brisk walking, resistance training, cycling, swimming, or racket sports, among other choices. If exercise has not been part of your daily routine and you’re starting from zero, studies have shown that 90 minutes of weekly exercise will lead to a 15 percent reduction in the likelihood of developing certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive disease, and diabetes. And no currently available drug can produce those benefits!
  • Weight Management: Losing excess weight, especially around the abdominal area, can substantially reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Even modest weight loss can have a significant impact.
  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation exercises into your daily routine.
  • Adequate Sleep: Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep can disrupt insulin sensitivity. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, preferably by going to bed and getting up at the same time daily, even on the weekends. 

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)

Beyond these lifestyle modifications, Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is a technological advancement that can be a game-changer in diabetes prevention and management. It involves wearing a small sensor beneath the skin to measure glucose levels continuously in real time. 

Here's how CGM works and how it can benefit different individuals:

  • Diabetics: CGM helps diabetics monitor their blood sugar trends throughout the day and night, providing valuable insights to adjust insulin dosages and make informed dietary choices.
  • Prediabetics: CGM can serve as an early warning system for individuals with prediabetes, alerting them to blood sugar spikes and identifying specific foods and lifestyle factors that impact their glucose levels negatively.
  • Non-Diabetics: Even those without diabetes or prediabetes can benefit from CGM. It provides a unique opportunity to understand how various foods, sleep patterns, exercise, and stress affect their blood sugar. This knowledge empowers them to make proactive lifestyle choices.

How CGM Impacts Lifestyle Choices

CGM offers a wealth of data that can help individuals make better lifestyle choices. Here's how:

  • Food Choices: CGM reveals how different foods affect blood sugar levels. Individuals can identify which foods to prioritize and which to limit or avoid by tracking their meal responses.
  • Sleep Quality: Monitoring overnight glucose levels can highlight the impact of sleep on blood sugar control. Poor sleep can lead to elevated glucose levels, motivating individuals to prioritize better sleep habits.
  • Exercise: CGM allows individuals to assess how physical activity influences blood sugar. It encourages them to incorporate regular exercise into their routines for better glucose management.
  • Stress Management: Stress can lead to spikes in blood sugar. CGM data can help individuals recognize stress-related patterns and implement strategies to mitigate its impact.

Functional Medicine and CGM

Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that seeks to address the root causes of chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes. Incorporating CGM into functional medicine practices can be transformative for both physicians and patients.

  • Personalized Care: CGM provides physicians with real-time data on their patients' blood sugar trends. This allows physicians to develop personalized treatment plans tailored to individual food, exercise, stress, and sleep responses.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Physicians can analyze CGM data to identify patterns and triggers for elevated blood sugar. This information guides treatment decisions and lifestyle recommendations.
  • Patient Empowerment: CGM empowers patients to take an active role in their healthcare. By understanding the impact of their choices on blood sugar levels, patients are more likely to adhere to recommended lifestyle changes.
  • Prevention: Through CGM, functional medicine practitioners can work proactively with patients to prevent progression from prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes. This preventive approach aligns with the core principles of functional medicine.

Appointments Available at WeCare Frisco

Preventing Type 2 diabetes is within reach for many individuals through a combination of diet, lifestyle changes, and the integration of advanced technologies like Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM). 

By understanding the concepts of prediabetes and insulin resistance and making informed choices, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing this chronic disease.

For physicians practicing functional medicine, CGM is a powerful tool that enhances patient care, enables personalized treatment plans, and promotes a proactive approach to healthcare. Together, these strategies can make a lasting difference in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and improve overall health and well-being.

To learn more about Type 2 diabetes prevention or treatment and Continuous Glucose Monitoring, you’re invited to schedule a free Discovery Call at WeCare Frisco. 

New patients are always welcome at our clinic, and we would love to have you join the WeCare Frisco family!

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“I was absolutely fascinated,” Engels says, “by this new style of medicine that saw the patient as a whole biological system rather focusing on only one organ system at a time, such as Cardiology. This was a complete paradigm shift from conventional medicine and how I was trained.”