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Use new tools against diabetes

New technology and treatments offer new hope for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes: Insulin pump innovations give type 1 patients more control and freedom, and medication advances offer people with type 2 diabetes improved weight loss and glucose control.

As exciting as these advances are, prevention remains the most effective approach to this $245 billion dollar disease.

While prevention methods for type 2 diabetes are well-known, some promising research now points to possible ways to prevent type 1 diabetes. Two approaches worth considering in young children include early high vitamin D intake and avoiding early exposure to cow’s milk.

In a dramatic study from Finland, which has the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world, infants who were given 2000 international units of vitamin D a day reduced their lifetime risk of developing type 1 diabetes by 88 percent.

An international double-blind study found that diabetes-causing antibodies are higher in infants who had an early exposure to cow’s milk, suggesting that cow’s milk might be a catalyst to type 1 diabetes and that breastfeeding might be a way to help prevent the disease.

The ability to prevent type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise is, by now, common knowledge. I recommend lots of veggies and fruit, especially berries; beans, whole grains and healthy proteins. Avoiding sugar, white flour, fatty or processed meats and high-fat dairy foods is also helpful.
What some people might not know is that new research suggests high-intensity exercise could be key to staving off the disease. One study focused on a workout that consists of a 10-minute warm-up, followed by four minutes of cardio at 90 percent of your maximum heart rate and three minutes of working out at 70 percent of your heart rate. Repeat the cardio four times and then cool down.
Doing this type of exercise daily will increase your good cholesterol, reduce your blood glucose and improve your aerobic capacity. As you push yourself past your comfort zone, you will reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

I also recommend combining interval training with efficient resistance training. Work out each major muscle group once each week. For example, one day hit chest and triceps, another back and biceps, another day legs, and another day shoulders. Use enough weight to completely exhaust the muscles in just 20 or fewer reps. How much is enough weight? Let’s say you can curl 100 pounds once. Use 60 pounds (or 60 percent of your maximum) and do up to 20 reps. Hit the abdominal muscles a couple times each week as well. You should work your muscles to exhaustion.

Patients who have approached exercise this way develop muscle mass, drop clothing sizes and become more energetic. And – almost without meaning to – they normalize their blood sugars in the process.

Researchers will continue to work on new ways to control and battle diabetes. By finding fun, healthy lifestyle changes, you can be even more effective than scientists – by preventing the disease in the first place.

– Dr. Daniel Nadeau is program director of the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag Medical Group.