Lifestyle changes are often the first step for getting type 2 diabetes under control. Exercising can lower blood sugar almost immediately, as can eating healthy. If those changes bring about weight loss, that's even better.
When professional photographer Lew Everling, 41, was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three years ago at a health screening at the Chrysler plant in Kokomo, Ind., where he was working, his blood sugar was 360 mg/dl. This is well over the normal cutoff of 99 mg/dl, or even the range that would imply prediabetes, 100 to 125 mg/dl.
Everling immediately threw away the greasy lunch he'd bought at a fast-food drive-through on his way to work and picked up a healthier alternative from the supermarket.
"Then I took a 15-minute walk around the plant on my break time. That night, I researched the Diabetes.org website and learned that diet and exercise could keep everything in check. I began my exercise regimen the next day."
When Everling got in to see his doctor 10 days later, the physician put him on the oral drug metformin, which limits the amount of blood sugar the liver releases into the bloodstream.
But the drug made Everling feel "horrible," he says. As it turned out, all the walking combined with eating smaller portions of healthier food had brought his blood sugar into a normal range and the metformin was making him hypoglycemic.
"The doctor told me, 'I really don't know what you've done, but it's been a remarkable change, and you did the right thing.' He said 'Get off the medication!' "
Over the long term, some people can control type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, but a large majority of people will eventually need medication, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Still, a sizable percentage of adults with diabetes15 percentdon't need to take any medication to control their blood sugar. Everling still doesn't three years after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.