Diabetes is a choice you make

Tim had heart disease identified as a young man. He had his first heart attack followed by a quadruple bypass surgery at age 38. Recurrent anginal chest pain and another small heart attack led to several stents over three procedures in the first four years after bypass.

Tim finally came to us, interested in improving his prevention program. You name it, he had it: small LDL, low HDL (28 mg/dl), lipoprotein(a), etc. The problem was that Tim was also clearly pre-diabetic. At 5 ft 10 inches, he weighed 272 lbs--easily 80 or more pounds overweight.

Tim was willing to make the medication and nutritional supplement changes to gain control over his seeminglly relentless disease. He even turned up his exercise program and lost 28 lbs in the beginning. But as time passed and no symptoms recurred, he became lax.

Tim regained all the weight he'd lost and some more. Now Tim was diabetic.

"I don't get it. I eat good foods that shouldn't raise my insulin. I almost never eat sweets."

I stressed to Tim that diabetes and pre-diabetes, while provoked acutely by sugar-equivalent foods (wheat products, breads, breakfast cereals, crackers, etc.), is caused chronically by excess weight. If Tim wants to regain control over his heart disease, he needed to lost the weight.

Unlike, say, leukemia, an unfortunate disease that has little to do with lifestyle choices, diabetes is a choice you make over 90% of the time. In other words, if you become diabetic (adult variety, not children's variety) as an adult, that's because you've chosen to follow that path. You've neglected physical activity, or indulged in too many calories or poor food choices, or simply allowed weight to balloon out of control.

But diabetes is also a path most people can choose not to take. And it is a painfully common choice: Nearly two-thirds of the adults in my office have patterns of pre-diabetes or diabetes when I first meet them.

Let me stress this: For the vast majority of adults, diabetes is a choice, not an inevitability.