The most important treatment for people with type 2 diabetes is maintaining a healthy body weight. If someone is overweight with type 2 diabetes, they really need to make healthy food choices, reduce their caloric intake, be more physically active, and lose weight. When they achieve a healthy body weight, they need to keep being active with diet and exercise in order to maintain it. With type 2 diabetes, there are around a dozen medications that are approved for treating it in addition to diet and exercise when that is not enough. Some of those medications are injectable and some of those are pills – it really depends on what kind of diabetes and where you are, which one is right for you.
A lot of people with type 2 diabetes wonder if they can ever come off of the medications. Once they’ve started on medications, can they ever stop? The good news is that for many patients, the answer is “yes.” Especially shortly after diabetes has been diagnosed (in the first ten years or so) if a person loses weight, they can often come off of their medication. That’s the really good news – you can do something about it. Some people (especially people who have had type 2 diabetes for a long time) they will always need some kind of medication and even weight loss won’t change things at that point. But many people can come off of their medications just by losing weight.
There are a lot of different ways that people end up having diabetes and there are a lot of right ways to manage diabetes. When you see your doctor, there isn’t just one treatment – there is usually a whole range of options. You have to work with your doctor to figure out which option is right for you because goals are different for different people and what people are willing to do to control their condition is going to be different. Diabetes is all about self-management and for patients being involved in their own care to figure out what they want and how to get it.
Exercise is one of the best prescriptions you can take for diabetes. When you’re exercising, your muscle cells don’t need insulin to take in blood glucose. Furthermore, exercise makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
Often when people are diagnosed with diabetes, they get sad because they think “Now I can never eat chocolate cake again.” But that’s not what we’re recommending these days for people with diabetes. A healthy diet for someone with diabetes is the same as a healthy diet for any of us. All of us should make healthy food choices as much as possible and try to avoid the less healthy food choices. We should try to eat apples instead of apple pie. But that doesn’t mean that when you visit your grandmother and she made her famous apple pie that you can’t have it once. You just try to choose the healthy more often and the unhealthy less often. We don’t focus on particular foods – there are no foods you can’t eat and there are no foods that you should be eating. We want people to overall have a healthy pattern of eating and healthy habits in general. Specific food changes are not as important.
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