Can You Reverse Diabetes?

Be Inspired by These Success Stories

Mike Kemp/Blend Images/Getty Images.

I often get asked the question, "Can I reverse my diabetes?" The answer, like most things in medicine, is a bit complicated. If you've been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and make necessary lifestyle changes, you maybe able to control your blood sugars and get off medicine. But once you've had diabetes, you always need to be cautious: watch your diet, maintain a healthy weight and engage in physical activity to prevent diabetes from getting out of control.

Don't be discouraged, though, this is not an impossible task. I have seen patients achieve remarkable results- reduce A1c's from dangerously high values to below the diabetes threshold. The method that works for you really depends on your goals, needs, and lifestyle. The bottom line is that you can take control of your diabetes.

Sometimes, we can be motivated by a success story. Knowing that someone has faced the same challenges that you are dealing with is comforting and reassuring. I have the pleasure of sharing two success stories. Hopefully, they will inspire you to make one small change today! 

First meet Jim: 

Jim began his quest to get healthy when his doctors told him he needed to start an exercise routine. He had been on long-term disability since a major car accident in 2000 and hadn’t been very active. With Type II Diabetes being a reality in his life, he needed to make a change.

He committed to keeping records of his daily stats like miles, calories burned and weight. He also monitored his fasting blood sugar count. After cycling for a while, Jim noticed his fasting blood sugar count was stable. Working with his doctor, he decided to gradually reduce the strength of his medication. After more than a year and a half, his diabetes is still under control without medication.

Now meet Billy: 

Billy came to a similar point in his life and was ready to battle Type II Diabetes with a healthier lifestyle. After doing quite a bit of research, he realized the importance of resistance training for overall health and specifically diabetes.

Billy connected with his doctor about monitoring all his numbers. His A1C, a number that shows a person’s average blood sugar level over the course of three months, dropped below diabetes standards at 5.2. After reaching this point, Billy also went off all medications and has been doing so for six months now.

Bottom Line: 

Both of these men were able to achieve their personal goals, get off medicine and take control of their diabetes and their lives. How did they do it? Find out their secrets in my interview: 

Jim: 

Q: One of the most challenging things to do is to begin an exercise program. What sparked your motivation to make changes to your lifestyle? 

I have been on long-term disability from work due to a major car accident in 2000 and I was being told by my doctors that it was time to think about getting back to some sort of exercise/cardio routine.

 

I thought about joining a fitness club, but I knew that I had done that so many times before without ever truly committing myself. But, I promised to commit myself to do something. And so I began surfing the internet for some ideas. I decided that whatever I did I would set quick and attainable goals. I needed to do something where I would not get bored with myself or the perceived lack of progress.I stumbled upon a site where a young man from Seattle had been able to lose 20 pounds on a Schwinn Active 10. He did so in one year cycling about 9 miles a day and I immediately thought that I could do that. .

I started very slow at pedaling and each day I figured I would, or could pedal a bit more. I began with an overall goal of pedaling the equivalent distance from my home in Tampa to an almost identical street address in Seattle.

I also thought that if I created a virtual trek, from Tampa to Seattle, I should be committed to keeping records of my daily stats – miles, calories burned, weight. And as I was in the recording frame of mind I thought - why not include my fasting blood sugar count. 

After cycling for a while I noticed that my fasting blood sugar count appeared to be remaining stable. Working with my diabetes doctor I thought and decided to begin reducing the strength of my diabetes medication. 

Today, almost 2 years later I still monitor my blood sugar every morning. I have my diabetes under control and I am still not taking any medication. My A1C and other associated numbers are now consistently in the normal ranges.

Q: When you were feeling frustrated or wanted to give up on your exercise program, what helped you to persevere? 

I set major, intermediate, small, and daily goals for myself specific to pedaling on my Schwinn 170.

My first major goal was to pedal the equivalent distance from Tampa to Seattle. It just so happened that I was able to find an almost identical address in Seattle to my home address in Tampa.

I have always been a goal-oriented person so the major goal was the easy part. But I knew that I could falter and give up if I did not create some immediate and daily goals so I wouldn’t get bored. I also knew that in order to succeed I would have to be consistent.

Q: Do you test your blood sugars? What do you do with the information you receive? Do you find it helpful? 

I do test my fasting blood sugar (FSB) every single morning. I record my FSB and convert it to a 90-day A1C and also an eAG, (estimated Average Glucose). I continually graph my FSB and then incorporate a moving 90-day average calculated line. This helps me to see where I am headed and whether I need to make any necessary changes, specifically, to my diet.

Q: Did you change your diet at the same time you started to exercise or did you make one change at a time? 

I have always enjoyed cooking and have concentrated on Asian-inspired recipes. I can adopt most recipes to suit my needs and desires without giving up taste or having to buy any prepackaged programmed meals. Following my daily FSB recordings, I know when I need to counteract any spike in results.

Q: Do you have support at home? 

Yes.

Q: Do you have an exercise buddy? Is that helpful? 

No. I have a lot of support from family, my medical associates and providers. Also, as I write my blog, I do get positive feedback.

Q: If there was one thing you could say to someone whose been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes what would that be? 

The main person who cares about what happens to you is you. Do it for yourself. Period.

Billy: 

Q: One of the most challenging things to do is to begin an exercise program. What sparked your motivation to make changes to your lifestyle? 

I thought about what made such a big difference between the health I was in when I was younger compared to now and the biggest contributing factor I realized was physical activity. I decided that age should never be an excuse for not committing to an exercise routine, and once I started, I soon found some of the same feelings I experienced in my younger days like more energy, better posture and vitality.

Q: When you were feeling frustrated or wanted to give up on your exercise program, what helped you to persevere? 

There have been quite a few times where I was either sick or just lacking energy and I told myself that it is perfectly OK to take some time off now and then. It was always the rest period that led me to getting back into the groove of things - there is just something missing in my day without the workout. I picture myself in the future tossing around a baseball with my grandchildren and know that I want to be an excellent mentor for them. Letting myself go is just not an option.

Q: Do you test your blood sugars? What do you do with the information you receive? Do you find it helpful? 

I check my morning glucose as soon as I get up in the morning each day. I write this information down in my notebook along with my body weight. I also post these figures on my daily blog as a method of accountability to myself.

Q: Did you change your diet at the same time you started to exercise or did you make one change at a time? 

I made changes to my diet gradually and continue to change things up from time to time. I try to eat mostly organically grown and non-GMO vegetables, which includes the ones I grow along with a small quantity of grass fed beef, bison and buffalo, cage free eggs and chicken. I keep my carbohydrates pretty low and rely on tubers like sweet potatoes and legumes.

Q: Do you have support at home? 

Yes, my wife is a nurse practitioner and supports all of my efforts.

Q: Do you have an exercise buddy? Is that helpful? 

When it comes to exercise, I am a loner. I work out early in the morning while the rest of world is still sleeping. It is not that I wouldn't like to share a routine with a friend, it is more about finding someone else willing to get up at 3:30 in the morning to work out with me. It all happens within my garage where I find my treadmill and Bowflex machine waiting for me each morning.

Q: If there was one thing you could say to someone whose been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes what would that be? 

Type II Diabetes is a warning sign that things are getting ready to go terribly wrong. It is not a death sentence but an opportunity to begin making the changes necessary to regain your health before other problems arise. The changes are not extreme and not difficult at all to adhere to. Healthier food and just about 45 minutes per day of exercise is all it takes to start losing weight, getting strong and keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range. 

What Does this Mean For You? 

Physical activity was a driving force that led these two men to get their diabetes under control. Perhaps their stories have inspired you to make a change in your life. Once you find your motivation, you can use it to your advantage to get to where you need to be and you too, can take control of your diabetes today. 

Continue Reading