A Pill for Everything
“You have type 2 diabetes,” said his doctor. And just like clockwork, my friend was told, “Go on a diet and lose weight. And, here are some prescriptions for diabetes, cholesterol and arthritis medications.”
My friend went on a diet and took all the drugs he was prescribed. After several months, he returned to see his doc. His A1C had decreased by almost 2 percentage points, his blood pressure and cholesterol numbers had improved and the arthritis meds had helped relieve his knee pain.
But my friend was still obese.
“Well, I guess you have a death wish,” his doctor said, critically.
His doctor hadn’t told him that one of the diabetes drugs he was taking caused weight gain.
And his doctor hadn’t referred him to a diabetes self-management education program.
Is Losing Weight the Right Prescription?
It’s an interesting debate. Weight-loss diets have huge failure rates and can lead to the deterioration of one’s health. So instead of simply advising patients to “lose weight,” why don’t our doctors emphasize other critical steps we can take to improve our health, such as:
- Eating healthfully
- Developing an effective exercise program and sticking to it
- Controlling blood glucose
- Improving lipid profiles
- Staying free of complications
Some of us can achieve these goals without losing a single pound, though gradual weight loss could be a natural side effect of improving our diet and being more active.
Exercise—The Magic Pill
There was an article in the November 29, 2004, issue of Forbes magazine concerning our obsession with taking a pill for every condition. The article mentioned that several of these conditions can be improved simply by exercising more.
Exercise is beneficial for so many things, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
But how many doctors, instead of teaching us to integrate regular exercise in our lives, simply push the latest and greatest pill? I know that our doctors don’t have the time to be their patients’ exercise coaches, but why not refer patients who need this type of counseling and education to diabetes self-management programs; to nurses and dietitians who are certified diabetes educators; to exercise programs staffed by exercise physiologists; and to other resources, such as support groups?
Type 1 Teen Has Fun and Improves His Control
Michael Twede, a type 1 teen from Utah, has been playing a video game to improve his diabetes control. After just a few months of playing Dance Dance Revolution, Michael’s A1Cs have improved almost 2 percentage points.
For type 1s and type 2s, Michael Twede’s story shows how exercise can help us reduce our chances of getting complications by lowering our average glucose levels. For some type 2s, exercise may actually reverse the diabetes completely.
Type 1, 30 years (and counting)
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