New Insights into Preventing Type 2 Diabetes and Choosing the Right Doctor

New Insights into Preventing Type 2 Diabetes and Choosing the Right Doctor

Our experts share how you can make the right health choices, including when choosing your care team.

Q: I know people who have developed type 2 diabetes who aren’t particularly overweight or sedentary. Does that mean anyone can get it? What can I do to make sure I don’t develop it? — Gracie R., Roanoke, VA

A: That’s a great question—and there’s new research that’s helping to provide answers.

Type 2 diabetes starts either with the inability to use insulin properly or your body doesn’t produce enough to regulate your blood sugar levels—even when it produces more insulin than normal. That can happen because of inflammation, changes in the gut biome and even exposure to antibiotics. Genetics may make you vulnerable, as do lifestyle choices, such as eating high-fat, over-processed foods, being sedentary and not getting enough good-quality sleep.

But the latest research shows that air pollution, which triggers body-wide inflammation and reduces insulin production, is also a risk factor and contributed to around 3.2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016. Another recent study found women who work more than 45 hours a week are 63 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who work 30 to 40 hours weekly. This is probably related to a chronic stress response that amps up inflammation, disrupts sleep and causes unhealthy eating schedules and choices.

Your best moves to avoid type 2?

  • Get 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep nightly.
  • Maintain a healthy eating schedule, which includes seven to nine servings of produce daily.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily and try not to exercise in highly polluted air.
  • Install air filters at home.
  • If you work long hours and can’t curtail them, find time for daily meditation and physical activity to dispel stress and improve sleep quality.

So, there’s a lot that contributes to developing the disease and a lot you can do to avoid it. And don’t forget Dr. Mike’s tip: “Drinking four cups of coffee over the course of a day will reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 50 percent!”

Q: I need to change several of my doctors because I changed jobs and my old doctors don’t take my new health insurance. What am I supposed to do? — William C., Wooster, OH

A: It’s a problem with today’s U.S. healthcare system and no one seems to have an answer. And a new, major British study that reviewed outcomes in 22 countries with different healthcare systems has found that staying with the same doctor(s) for a long period of time leads to better health and longevity and is better for the docs too. But don’t worry—even though that was the conclusion, if you become your own best patient advocate, you will emerge from this change in doctors as a healthier you. Here’s how to do it:

#1 Specialization is increasing, so your GP’s job is offering important baseline health monitoring (annual physicals, vaccinations) and giving you referrals to specialists like cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons. The key is to have your medical records available to your new GP, and all your GP’s records available to any specialists, so they will know if you have health issues that impact their care of you. Your task: Have every doc give you both a digital and printed copy of your records; review them and correct any mistakes. And make sure the doctors are communicating your records to one another digitally; it’s the best way to be protected from medical oversights when you change docs.

#2 The British research study mentioned that patients who stay with their docs for long periods of time had what they termed a “greater adherence to medical advice.” In other words, folks who move around from doc to doc are less likely to follow their doc’s advice. So act like a member of the care team from the start: Be an engaged patient, ask questions, be polite to the staff, show you care about quality care and you’ll get it.

 To help you find the right care team, check out Sharecare’s Find a Doctor page.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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