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Are your kids candidates for diabetes?

Lifestyle and diet changes can help beat genetics and keep the disease at bay, for yourself and your children
/ 05:06 AM February 27, 2018

My maternal grandmother died of type 2 diabetes earlier than she should have because she refused to undergo dialysis. My mother has had type 2 diabetes for some years now, and is on several maintenance medications.

I was diagnosed as “pre-diabetic” and had to be on medication for a year. When I got pregnant for the third time, I was treated like I had gestational diabetes even if I didn’t, because of my predisposition to it. I had to prick my finger four times a day to check my blood sugar, watch what I ate, be on bedrest, and downed about 20 pills a day.

Thankfully I gave birth with no problems, was finally medication-free, and even passed follow-up tests.

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But an annual physical ultrasound test of my abdomen showed that I had nonalcoholic fatty liver. While all my blood work came out within normal limits, that finding was alarming.

I was glad I took that extra test, though, as many of us would normally just take the basic blood exams and go on living with a false sense of security.

My endocrinologist said I needed to lose about 20 lbs in three months or I might need to be on maintenance medication.

Realizing I did not want to spend hard-earned money on medication if I could help it, I decided that I had to rely on old-fashioned discipline and hard work: hour-long workouts six days a week at home (hello again, Tracy Anderson); and preparing meals for myself to ensure proper nutrition.

Worth it

I lost only 15 lbs within those three months, but the check-up went well, as my fatty liver ultrasound came back normal. All the effort was worth it!

I continued with my routine and lost five more pounds in seven months. I now weigh as I did 15 years ago, much lighter than in my wedding.

I didn’t even bother to diet or lose weight before my wedding, but now that I have children, I’m striving to build a better future for us, hopefully ending the threat of diabetes with me.

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Will my kids get diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a genetic disease, according to the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).

“The risk is highest when multiple family members have diabetes, and if the children are overweight, sedentary, and have other risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Your child has a 10-15 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes when you have type 2 diabetes.”

I consider those odds low, and have since been careful about the sugar and fat in my children’s diet. I encourage them to stay active. I know that I still have a small window of opportunity to train my children on what “yummy” is by getting them used to flavors they should be eating and limiting, or by avoiding sweets, fast-food and meat.

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented or reversed?

According to the UCSF Diabetes Teaching Center, “although we cannot change genetic risk for developing type 2 diabetes, even modest exercise and weight loss can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

“A Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was completed in 2002 and showed that when people modified their risk factors for type 2 diabetes, they reduced their chance of developing the condition. Similar results have been shown in Finland.”

In the study, prediabetics were assigned to three treatments: lifestyle changes (30 minutes of exercise, five days a week), a healthy diet and weight loss (7 percent of initial weight); the diabetes drug, Metformin; and an inactive placebo disguised as Metformin.

Reversing disease

The lifestyle change group was 58 percent less likely to get diabetes, while the Metformin group was 31 percent less likely to get diabetes vs the placebo group.

No one advocates such lifestyle changes more than Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., who believes that eating plant-based food can prevent and reverse diabetes and heart disease. He has published over 150 scientific papers and is the author of the best-
selling book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”

I was amazed at the results of his long-term study with purportedly terminally ill patients he nourished back to health.

Sarah Wexler wrote in
O Magazine: “To develop a successful get-fit plan, you must override your brain’s impulses.”

Based on statistics from a sample of 75 million users on MyFitnessPal, an online weight-loss tool, more often than not, those who lost over 30 lbs planned their meals ahead of time than those who lost only 5 lbs or less.

Meanwhile, 33 percent of people who lost over 40 lbs exercised at least six times a week.

Studies show that people lost three times more weight when they share their food log with friends.

Years ago, I tried to do a food journal but it didn’t work for me. A habit that worked more was a daily weigh-in in the morning. It kept me focused and honest about how I really spent my day.

Wexler advised, “You can outsmart your knee-jerk response by coming up with if-then scenarios. If you regularly skip the gym, say: ‘If I get off work at 6 p.m., I will put on my workout clothes and run a mile.’ Or, whenever I go to the hospital, I will always take the stairs. A specific strategy can quickly bring your cool rational system into play, making you more likely to do the right thing.”

Don’t let nega-stars spoil your fitness goals either. “The next time you worry about your wobbly willpower, just think: it’s all in your mind. Willpower is unlimited,” Wexler said. “There is no set number of days to make or break a habit. Don’t give up—even if you feel like it’s taking you a really long time to find your groove.”

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology states that it’s never too late to adopt healthier habits. Running for even five to 10 minutes a day can extend your life by about five years, regardless of age, BMI or preexisting medical conditions.

A Dominican University of California study also advises to write your goals, as you’ll be more likely to see things through. This works for me, too—logging my daily weight into my calendar, and if I did my workout that day.

A healthy, new you is within your reach; just grab it and don’t let go!

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