What new diabetes research means for your family

12.09.14 |

We used to know type 2 diabetes as adult-onset diabetes, but that term became obsolete as we saw this debilitating disease reach epidemic proportions among people of all ages, attacking children as young as ten.

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is on the rise, going from affecting 25.8 million Americans in 2010 to 29.1 million Americans in 2012. The potential consequences of diabetes are well-known at this point—heart disease, kidney failure, vision challenges—but oftentimes these dangers are not enough to make an unhealthy individual reevaluate their choices and their habits.

The reality is that the long term consequences are often too far away for us to think about today, but new research could help to add a new level context to type 2 diabetes, a layer that might make it easier to put your choices into perspective.

According to researchers from Johns Hopkins Boomberg School of Public Health, a midlife diabetes diagnosis could mean an accelerated decline in cognitive ability over the following 20 years. The research found that mid-life diabetes appears to age the mind at a speed equivalent to five years faster than normal. In other words, whether or not you control your blood sugar now can dramatically affect your quality of your life later, which includes your ability to enjoy time with your family.

This perspective is crucial: the benefits of creating health extend far beyond looking good in a swimsuit or running a faster mile. Optimal health ultimately translates to the ability to have more time to spend with those that you love, and this hits home for me as well.
When I was a critical care physician working long hours, I could shrug off the consequences of eating fast food or getting poor sleep because the work that I was doing felt important, but when I started to miss key moments in the lives of my children because my choices, I had to step back and look at the bigger picture. I had to admit to myself that how my health was about more than me; it rippled into the lives of my family. That double cheeseburger today could mean missing valuable memories later.

So I shifted my priorities and began to restructure my life and my practice around the Habits of Health.

In the time since, study after study have confirmed that I made the right decision; not just for me but for my family.

According to Elizabeth Selvin, PHD, MPH, her research on mid-life diabetes suggests that “to have a healthy brain when you’re 70, you need to eat right and exercise when you’re 50.” She goes on to say that “even delaying dementia by a few years could have a huge impact on the population, from quality of life to health care costs.”

Preventing type 2 diabetes is not complicated (that doesn’t make it easy, though):

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can dramatically lower your risks of contracting diabetes. Thriving at a healthy weight can also:

  • Give you more energy and vitality
  • Improve your sleep
  • Improve your mental outlook and increase your happiness
  • Lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides
  • Lower your risk for heart attack and stroke
  • Lower your blood sugar
  • Lessen or eliminate asthma, bronchitis, and other lung problems

I share this new research with you not because I want to scare you into choosing optimal health. I don’t believe that fear is a source of lasting change. Instead, my goal is to help you decipher the growing body of medical research so that you can better understand how it affects you and the choices that you make. Lasting change comes from within, so my hope is that learning more about health will push you to align your values with your choices.
My values revolve around my family. It’s important to me that I spend as much time with them as possible, and that I be for them when they need me. That’s why I choose health a hundred times a day.

Why do you choose health?