Q: I have just been diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes, and I do not want to take medications if I can avoid it. I’ve heard you say that it can be cured, especially early on. So what should I do now?
— Gini G., Des Moines, Iowa
A: We’ve long advocated lifestyle management of diabetes and have stressed that it’s possible to reverse the disease, effectively curing it, if you’re willing to make and maintain significant changes to your nutrition and activity habits. Not everyone can reverse it completely, but everyone can reduce the toll it takes on the body — and for everyone, it’s worth trying to beat diabetes through improved everyday choices.
Recent research backs this up. A study from Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, published in The Lancet, found that for overweight folks ages 18 to 50 who had Type-2 diabetes for three or fewer years, aggressive lifestyle intervention reversed their diagnosis 61% of the time — in 12 months. Among the control group of study participants who received conventional diabetes care, only 12% achieved reversal.
Participants who saw the reversal followed a calorie-restricted weight-loss plan, shed an average of 26 pounds and aimed to walk 10,000 steps a day, plus get 150 minutes of physical activity a week. A previous study in The Lancet found diabetes was reversed in 86% of participants who, over the course of a year, lost 33 pounds through intensive weight-loss intervention.
Your best bet is to work with your doctor, a physical therapist and a diabetes coach who is a nutritionist. They can help you design a diet that slowly and steadily reduces your weight as you safely increase your physical activity — both aerobic and strength-training.
A tip for people diagnosed with prediabetes: Another new study in JAMA Internal Medicine found losing 4.5 to 6.5 pounds and increasing your activity over two years reduce the risk of developing full-blown Type-2 diabetes by 40% to 47%.
Q: I feel more and more depressed now that winter is coming and the pandemic is getting worse. I’m 67, and it’s frustrating that I can’t snap out of it. Any suggestions?
A: We’re sorry you’re struggling with depression. Many folks are these days. A survey in JAMA Open Network found that since the pandemic started, three times as many people say they have symptoms of depression — disrupted sleep, sadness, lack of energy or interest in things, poor appetite or overeating, trouble concentrating and having thoughts of doing themselves harm.
Unfortunately, many older folks think they should be able to just make their blues disappear and are reluctant to get medical and psychological help — or even adopt self-help techniques that are known to be effective. A recent poll called the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, found that 61% of Americans age 65 or older who are concerned about being depressed won’t seek treatment, and 33% of those with depression worries think they should be able to snap out of it on their own.
You should always talk to a trained professional if you have chronic depression — but there are also steps you can take to ease symptoms. A new study in BMJ Medicine with almost 85,000 participants found that reducing screen time, increasing physical activity (150 minutes a week, plus 10,000 steps a day), eating a healthier diet (bye, ultraprocessed foods!) and consistently getting seven to nine hours of sleep prevents and eases depression significantly.
For help adopting these depression-fighting techniques, talk to your doctor about using melatonin, a natural hormone that quiets neurotransmitter activity to induce sleepiness. Participate in online exercise classes (many are free); join outdoor group activities. Reach out to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at www.dbsalliance.org and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America at www.adaa.org to find a local or online support group — many are free or low cost. Don’t go this alone!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at [email protected].