Lifestyle contributes a great deal to what course Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes will take, and healthcare workers frequently attempt lifestyle intervention to prevent diabetic complications. Researchers at the Department of Endocrinology, China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing looked at how lifestyle intervention would affect diabetics with impaired glucose tolerance over the course of 20 years. The results of their work were published in November 2010 in the journal Diabetologica.
The study looked at the possibility of preventing 3 serious complications of Type 2 diabetes.
1. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease caused by damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye, where light forms an image. As the blood vessels bleed the retina becomes damaged until sight is lost.
2. Diabetic nephropathy is due to damaged blood vessels in the kidneys, where excess sugar is removed from the blood and added to the urine. The kidneys gradually lose their ability to function and artificial kidney dialysis can become necessary.
3. Diabetic neuropathy is damage to the nerves, which can lead to numbness and pain in the limbs.
People with Type 2 diabetes have high blood sugar because they are unable to use insulin efficiently to help sugar to enter cells. Glucose tolerance is said to be impaired. Glucose tolerance can also be impaired before Type 2 diabetes is even diagnosed, in prediabetics.
Study: Five hundred seventy-seven adults with impaired glucose tolerance were enrolled in the study. They were assigned either to:
- a control group
- a diet intervention group
- an exercise intervention group or
- a diet and exercise intervention group
The interventions were implemented for 6 years. Twenty years after the start of the study a follow-up was performed. A significant difference was found in the prevalence of retinopathy between the intervention and control groups:
- there was 9.2 per cent retinopathy in the combined intervention groups, compared with 16.2 per cent in the control group
- the intervention groups had only slightly fewer cases of disease and neuropathy than did the control group
Sometimes differences in groups are difficult to detect due to the size of the groups, and this could be why the differences in the number of cases of neuropathy and nephropathy between the groups was not significant. Even if that were not the case, avoiding blindness in itself should be enough incentive to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Effective Lifestyle Changes: What can you do today to make healthy lifestyle changes to help lower blood sugar levels and prevent diabetic complications? One step might be to weigh yourself and decide upon a weight loss goal if being overweight or obesity is a problem. What can you do to increase your physical activity? Could you get up a half hour earlier every morning and go for a brisk walk? What about adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet?
Every step will take you either towards or away from the vision of health you want for yourself.