Thirty million Americans already have diabetes.
Now, new research is suggesting that what's good for your heart may also prevent diabetes.
It's good news for those who are at risk right now. Twenty million more people are projected to develop diabetes over the next 20 years.
Is there any way to prevent it? Lee Miller and his doctor think there may be.
For ten years, Lee has maintained a 40-pound weight loss, but Lee got a shock at his yearly checkup.
"I had gone to a physical and had bloodwork done and came back with higher blood sugar levels than were good," he explains.
The man who used to train for triathlons was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and he worried that full-blown diabetes could be next.
Dr. Joshua Joseph and his colleagues assessed the heart health of more than 7,000 people who did not have diabetes. The researchers then used the American Heart Association's measure of heart health, called Life's Simple 7.
For starters, did they have blood pressure of less than 120 over 80? Fasting glucose less than 100? Total cholesterol less than 200? And a BMI of less than 25?
Did they exercise for 150 minutes a week and eat well with two servings of fish weekly?
Finally, if they had ever smoked, did they quit?
"People who had four or more of those, compared to 0-1, had a 70-80 percent lower risk of diabetes over ten years," Joseph explained.
Lee did develop diabetes, but he believes shedding about 20 more pounds and increasing his exercise again could be the key to keeping the symptoms under control.
"My doctor feels if I can get there, I may have a chance with exercise," Lee explains.
Lee says he has cut out all soda, and he's limiting his carb intake to 45 grams per meal. He's also planning to start training for a triathlon again as motivation.
In addition to the other heart-healthy recommendations, Joseph suggests limiting sugar-sweetened drinks to only 36 ounces or less every week.
DIABETES: LIFE'S SIMPLE SEVEN
BACKGROUND: With type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks part of its own pancreas. Scientists are not sure why, but the immune system mistakenly sees the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as foreign, and destroys them. This attack is known as "autoimmune" disease. People with type 2 are able to produce some of their own insulin. And sometimes, the insulin will try to serve as the "key" to open the body's cells, to allow the glucose to enter. But the key won't work. The cells won't open. This is called insulin resistance. More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 4 of them don't know they have it. More than 84 million U.S. adults have pre-diabetes, and 90 percent of them don't know they have it. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, and type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 percent. In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled as the American population has aged and become more overweight. (Source: https://www.diabetesresearch.org/what-is-diabetes and https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html)
DIABETES PREVENTION: Making a few simple changes in your lifestyle may help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes down the road, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage. Exercise can help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar, and boost your sensitivity to insulin. Research shows that aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes. Getting plenty of fiber can help reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control, lower your risk of heart disease, and promote weight loss by helping you feel full. It's not clear why, but whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your grains whole grains. If you're overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every pound you lose can improve your health, and you may be surprised by how much. Joshua Joseph, MD, with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center recommends a diet component of 2 servings of fish per week, less than 36 ounces of sugar sweetened beverages, less than 1,500 mg/day of sodium, 4.5 cups per day of fruits or vegetables and 3 servings of fiber rich whole grains. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-prevention/art-20047639)
BREAKTHROUGH: INTERMITTENT FASTING: There have been a number of small studies and research looking into whether or not intermittent fasting can impact the lives of those with type 2 diabetes and possibly prevent diabetes for those with pre-diabetes. In this small study, three men were referred to the Intensive Dietary Management clinic in Toronto, Canada, and were each using insulin daily to manage their type 2 diabetes. The participants were a 40-year-old man diagnosed with diabetes 20 years prior to the start of the study; a 52-year-old man diagnosed 25 years earlier; and a 67-year-old man diagnosed for 10 years. As quitting insulin can cause dangerous shifts in blood glucose levels, the team gave the participants detailed instructions on how to monitor their blood during the study. The participants were told to stop fasting if they felt unwell. Study author Dr. Jason Fung, of the Department of Medicine, Scarborough Hospital, Canada, stated that, "This study showed that a dietary intervention, therapeutic fasting, has the potential to completely reverse type 2 diabetes, even when somebody has suffered with the disease for 25 years. It changes everything about how we should treat the disease." (Source: http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/possible-breakthrough-in-treating-type-2-diabetes-and-prediabetes/)