The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1036: How to Prevent Diabetes by Changing Your Life

You may be able to reverse prediabetes or even type 2 diabetes by changing your life to get more physical activity and supplements that lower blood sugar.
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How to Prevent Diabetes by Changing Your Life

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An increasing proportion of Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes. In 2012, 86 million adults had prediabetes, which is elevated blood sugar that doesn’t quite reach the cut-off for a diabetes diagnosis. Frequently, people with prediabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes, but they don’t have to. You can reverse prediabetes by changing your life. Our radio show, which will air on Saturday, May 28, 2016, will provide insights on how to accomplish such changes in practical ways.

How Do You Succeed at Changing Your Life?

The CDC has approved an evidence-based approach to diabetes prevention that works through changes in lifestyle: exercise, diet, stress reduction and group support. That sounds like a good idea, but it also sounds daunting. Changing your life in those ways can be hard!

How Would You Make Those Changes?

There are ways to learn how make those challenging behavior changes. Learn about the YMCA’s successful diabetes prevention program designed for people with prediabetes. It is available at YMCA facilities around the country.

Health Coaching:

We also discuss how health coaching can help people make changes in their lives so that they can reduce their risks of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. A health coach has skills and time that most physicians do not.

Botanical Medicines to Control Blood Glucose:

Are you interested in non-drug approaches to lower blood sugar? Dr. Tieraona Low Dog describes a number of botanical medicines that can be useful for this purpose.

You may be interested in our Guide to Managing Diabetes, which covers some nondrug approaches to blood sugar control as well as discussing medications. The sites Dr. Longjohn mentions for a self-assessment are and

This Week’s Guests:

Matthew Longjohn, MD, MPH, is the national health officer of the YMCA of the USA. He oversees programs and practices to advance the Y’s Healthy Living goals, including the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. Dr. Longjohn is also an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Karen Lawson, MD, ABIHM, is an assistant professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. She is Director of Integrative Health Coaching at the Center for Spirituality and Healing ( In addition, Dr. Lawson is a co-founder and executive leader of the National Team for Standards, Certification, & Research for Professional Health & Wellness Coaches ( )

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is Fellowship Director of the Interprofessional Fellowship in Integrative Health & Medicine with the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine. She is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements, herbal medicine and women’s health.

She is a founding member of the American Board of Physician Specialties, American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health. She has served as Chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Committee.

Her books include: Women’s Health in Complementary and Integrative Medicine; Life Is Your Best Medicine; and Healthy at Home. Her latest is Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. For more information, see her website:  The photo is of Dr. Low Dog.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    One of the concerns I thought of from this show is cost. I know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure but the cost and availability of the better foods is a huge issue. Feeding a family is a tremendous expense for the middle and lower classes and that is without buying the healthier options.

    This may be wishful thinking–that you can prevent diabetes with these lifestyle changes. In my family, four of six children developed diabetes, and the two who escaped were the two plumpest who ate all the wrong things.

    Is that Type I or Type II diabetes? It makes a difference.

    A neighbor recommended the following diet: eliminate white stuff! potatoes, bread, white rice, potatoes, desserts, etc. That should help with the diet side of diabetes prevention.

    The “standard American diet” is toxic – the frankenfats are blocking p-par gamma off its receptors as they accumulate – leading to insulin resistance from lack of transcription for insulin receptors. Children so affected will have progressive intraventricular conduction delays with enough symptoms to go to ED’s. Finding out where Medicaid is doing the most payment for EKG’s will show where the worst nutrition is concentrated. Why not start there?

    I have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and have been trying to control my blood sugar levels with the help of a nutritionist for about a year now. I am thin, work out regularly and eat really well. They have now prescribed Metformin. What are your thoughts on this drug? And do you know of anything else I could try? I am still asymptomatic and feel great.
    I WISH I could help myself through diet and exercise and feel that people who could and don’t are being lazy and missing an opportunity that others wish they had.

    Definitely listen to the podcast as they mention nutitional deficiencies caused by metformin that need supplementing. And, avoid all simple carbohydrates.

    Are increasing blood sugar or AC1 levels just another figure of normal aging (like so many other indicators) or if left unattended will one eventually contract diabetes? My mother in law had been diagnosed as a pre-diabetic for decades. Her Italian diet consisted of pasta, bread, and pastries (along with meats and fish) on a regular basis and never became a type 2 diabetic and lived to be 89 years old. While I’m sure others following the same kind of diet would go on to become a type 2 diabetic the question then becomes what makes the difference? A lot of human markers elevate as one ages but is this normal or the beginning of a future health condition?

    Research has shown that there is a possibility that genetics and your gut bacteria (microbiome) may protect some who eat a lot of carbs from getting diabetes.

    Several years ago, my A1C was 1 point from being pre-diabetic. I have a family history of diabetes, so my doctor has been watching it. I lowered my carbs to 100 per day. I have an active job but I’m not good at exercising outside of work. My A1C has been normal since I changed my diet.

    What is “blood sugar”, and how does it affect your health?

    If my diet has no sugar, will I still have a blood sugar problem? I have high blood pressure. Does this have anything to do with a “high” blood sugar “count”?

    Al, high blood pressure and high blood sugar are independent (though some people have both). Almost all the food that we eat gets turned into glucose, which supplies our cells with fuel. When there is not enough insulin to usher glucose into cells, or when the cells don’t respond well to insulin, the result is high blood sugar. Consequences: damage to blood vessels and organs.

    Four months ago I had blood work and had an a1c level of 6.1—firmly in pre-diabetic territory. I was overweight, so after my naturopath suggested a chromium supplement, I went several steps further on my own. I began an intermittent fasting program, began 4x per week workouts focusing on resistance exercise, and began taking glucomannan, a form of soluble fiber. I had my annual physical yesterday, and I’ve lost 16 pounds and my a1c is back in the normal range. As a bonus, my overall cholesterol, HDL and LDL levels improved dramatically.

    There is a well-established correlation between excess body fat and insulin resistance/pre-diabetes. There’s also a large body of evidence showing that resistance training and high-intensity interval training are fantastic for improving insulin sensitivity. So while they may take some lifestyle changes that aren’t always easy, diet, exercise and weight loss not only work for reversing pre-diabetes, they come with other great benefits.

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