Preventing Diabetes: Small Changes Have Big Payoff
If it's hard to imagine how small differences in lifestyle can make a big difference in your health, consider this story of identical twins Tim and Paul Daly. They shared almost everything in childhood, including the same eating habits, the same love of basketball and the same genes — some of which predispose them to diabetes.
Back in 1996, one of the twins was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
"When you first get diagnosed, it's like a punch in the stomach," says Paul Daly, who is now 60.
Or it's a wake-up call — if you're the identical twin. Since the disease runs in families, it seemed almost a certainty that Tim would develop it, too.
"Because we know that Type 2 is genetic disease, and since he has an identical twin, he has a risk that's about 95 percent," says diabetes expert Dr. David Nathan of Massachusetts General Hospital.
But 14 years later, Tim still does not have diabetes. And he doesn't take any medicine to keep his blood sugar down. Instead, he has been able to make small changes to his eating habits and exercise to keep diabetes at bay. He isn't alone — a large national study conducted at 27 sites around the country, including Massachusetts General Hospital, found that small lifestyle changes are far more successful at warding off diabetes than a drug.
Overweight And At Risk
Both Daly brothers had gained weight in middle age. It's just that one gained more than the other. In 1996, when he was diagnosed with diabetes, Paul weighed 220 pounds — too much for his 5-foot-10-inch frame. Looking back, Paul says he hadn't stuck with much regular exercise.
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