Nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes today, and 79 million more have blood sugar levels high enough to be considered prediabetic. What can you or someone you love do to prevent diabetes? Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. Marc Jaffe has some answers.
Interview by Dolores Radding
As an endocrinologist and internist at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, Marc Jaffe, MD, sees patients with diabetes in his office every day. He also works with Kaiser Permanente’s Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program to develop ways to improve diabetes care. In addition to being a major cause of heart disease and stroke, diabetes is also a major cause of blindness, amputation, and kidney failure. On Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m., Dr. Jaffe is the featured guest of the Kaiser Permanente Health Talks Online webinar “Preventing Diabetes: Is Diet and Exercise Enough?” (https://www.signup4.net/public/ap.aspx?EID=20111274E&OID=175) This webinar is available to the public at no charge.
Are you seeing any trends related to diabetes?
I’ve seen a tremendous growth in the number of people with diabetes over the past 20 years. I’ve seen this trend in the patients I care for in my clinic and all over the Northern California region. We’re also seeing more people struggle with weight, and this appears to correlate with the increase in incidence of diabetes.
What is prediabetes, and why is this population of patients of concern?
Prediabetes is a condition where people at risk of diabetes develop abnormal blood sugar readings and that signals that they’re closer to developing diabetes. It’s like an alarm buzzer going off to say, ‘Hey you’re getting close, and we should really focus on lifestyle changes to prevent the progression to diabetes.’
Tell us about the latest research on diabetes prevention.
We know based on a large clinical trial, called the Diabetes Prevention Program that the best way to prevent diabetes is through making healthy lifestyle choices. The cornerstones are being your ideal weight, eating a heart healthy diet, exercising regularly 150 minutes per week, and not smoking.
Some people get frustrated by thinking they need to lose a lot of weight. People tell me, ‘I can’t lose 50 pounds.’ But losing as little as 5 or 10 pounds can make a big difference in terms of your blood sugar, blood pressure, mood, and self-confidence.
Maintaining your weight is also important, because the natural tendency is to gain weight as you age. So if you don’t gain weight, often times that’s a victory, too.
Why is it so important to prevent diabetes?
People with diabetes are at risk for many serious health problems. There are problems with the small blood vessels, which can lead to numbness in the feet, wounds that won’t heal, and sometimes amputation. Problems with the blood vessels in the eyes can lead to impaired vision and sometimes blindness. Issues with the blood vessels that allow your kidneys to function properly have made diabetes the most frequent cause of chronic kidney failure in this country. It can also affect larger blood vessels and increase risk of heart attack and stroke.
People with diabetes also face dental issues, and problems with sexual and mental health. And, of course, diabetes is responsible for a tremendous cost to society, and to individuals themselves.
Final words of advice?
You should know the risk factors for diabetes (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002072.htm), and if you’re at risk, you need to take steps to reduce your risk. Even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Anything that you can do to eat healthier is good; try the salad instead of the pizza. Walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Drop a pound or two, or keep your weight steady. Stop smoking; even if you’ve tried unsuccessfully before.
All of these things can make a big difference. And even a little success can help preserve your health, reduce your risk of diabetes, and help you to be a more healthy and wholesome you.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/newscenter.