Ask the Expert: Michael Boivin on diabetes prevention, treatment, and daily living
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 100 million American adults are currently diabetic or prediabetic. Diabetes can have many damaging effects if left untreated, but fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can often help manage the disease. During today’s Ask the Expert webchat, pharmacist and certified diabetes educator Michael Boivin answered our users’ questions about how they can avoid and treat diabetes. Michael regularly teaches other healthcare professionals on diabetes and has worked with thousands of people with diabetes take better control of their condition. His focus is to empower people to better manage their diabetes versus having diabetes manage them.
Here are the highlights from our webchat with Michael. Please keep in mind all user participation is anonymous and confidential.
QUESTION — “What is prediabetes? My father-in-law has it, and takes the same medication as his wife who has type 2 (I don’t recall the name). He is 85, overweight, has a poor diet and doesn’t exercise. We all nag him to eat more fruits and veggies and watch his sodium and fat intake, but really he is at an age where he is set in his ways! Can you have prediabetes forever? Without a diet and lifestyle change, what else can we do?”
Michael Boivin — “This is a condition where the blood sugars are higher than normal, but not at the point to be diagnosed with diabetes. About half of the people with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes. You can often prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and losing weight, so we would strongly recommend these changes for anyone with prediabetes. In terms of your father-in-law, he may not be the person that goes on to develop diabetes, or he could be diagnosed with diabetes in 3 months, 1 year, or 3 years. I would really want him to try to eat better, not only to lower his risk of diabetes, but most importantly to lower his risk of a heart attack or stroke. Having prediabetes or diabetes increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and keeping a healthy diet, good blood pressure, low cholesterol, and exercising regularly can lower the risk.”
Diabetes and genetic causes
QUESTION — “My children’s paternal grandmother has type 2 diabetes, and a lot of her family members were diagnosed after 60. There are 3-4 people of that generation with it. Are my kids at higher risk, and if so, what can I do to help prevent them from getting it?”
Michael Boivin — “Diabetes has a strong genetic link. People with diabetes in their family have a much higher risk of getting the conditions. This would make your children at higher risk of getting diabetes. The good news is there are strategies that can help prevent diabetes:
- Keep active and have a healthy diet. Eating well and exercising regularly can lower your risk.
- Keep a healthy weight. Obesity and being overweight are other major risks for diabetes.
By keeping healthy, your kids can prevent or delay diabetes.”
QUESTION — “An 8-year-old in my family was just diagnosed with diabetes. They told the family it is genetic (they have other auto-immune disorders like Lupus in their family) and that a virus likely triggered it. How can that be? Can a virus cause diabetes?”
Michael Boivin — “Sorry to hear about the diagnosis of diabetes in the 8-year-old in your family. With type 1 diabetes (the diabetes normally diagnosed in children), there is a slight genetic link. It doesn’t mean that everyone in the family with a person with type 1 diabetes will get it. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body attacking the beta-cells in the pancreas (these are the cells that make insulin). What triggers it, we don’t know, and it can vary person to person. I would say that what caused the child’s diabetes is something that triggered his/her immune system. What that is, we can’t be sure.”
Managing type 2 diabetes
QUESTION — “Can my type 2 diabetes go away if I manage my diet so that my blood sugar becomes normal? Would I still be considered diabetic?”
Michael Boivin — “When you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, half of the cells in the body that make insulin are no longer alive. This means that you can’t make as much insulin as you did in the past. If you bring your blood sugars back to normal, great. I would strongly recommend you do that with sustainable changes to your diet and exercise. I would not want you to starve yourself. It is about long-term healthy lifestyle changes. If you get your sugars back to normal, we can sometimes stop or lower the dose of your diabetes medications. You would still have diabetes, but you are managing it with diet and lifestyle only. Even though you still have diabetes, by lowering your weight, eating well, and exercising, you can slow it down from getting worse, and you can lower your risk of a heart attack and stroke.”
Don’t miss our next Ask the Expert session!
If you weren’t able to catch our webchat with Michael Boivin, you can always sign into your LifeSpeak account to read the transcript. And be sure to log in June 13 at noon EST to chat with Russell Kolts, who will discuss self-compassion, mindfulness, and balancing complex emotions. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, please have your HR team reach out to us.
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Also published on Medium.