How to "Lose" Diabetes

Image of Pants with Measuring Tape

You can lower your weight and your glucose levels, too. A doctor from Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, NJ explains.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it’s time to scale down.

Naveen Ballem, MD
Naveen Ballem, MD

“You don’t have to lose all your excess weight,” says Naveen Ballem, MD, Director of Bariatric Surgery at Clara Maass Medical Center (CMMC). “Even 10 to 20 percent will help improve Type 2 diabetes.”

At first, the disease doesn’t show symptoms, leaving few clues until organ and other damage is advanced. More than one in 10 Americans—34.2 million—have been diagnosed with the obesity-linked disease. “Diabetes affects every organ in your body—eyes, kidneys, heart—and all the small blood vessels that supply those organs,” Dr. Ballem says.

How to Protect Yourself

“No single thing fixes diabetes,” Dr. Ballem says. “Many things help.”

Stop impulsive between-meal handfuls of chips, cookies and candy, he recommends, and trim your intake of rice, pasta, bread and sugary sodas. “Limiting those alone will help your blood sugars stay more stable,” Dr. Ballem says.

Exercise is key to health. “Strength and cardiovascular exercise burn calories and improve oxygenation of your heart and lungs,” he says. “Working out also builds muscle mass, which increases your metabolism and releases feel-good, energy-boosting endorphins.”

When You Need More

People who have not been able to lose weight, or keep it off, through exercise and diet may consider weight loss (bariatric) surgery. Most insurance companies and Medicare cover bariatric surgery for those with a body mass index (BMI)—a measure of height to- weight ratio—of 35 or more if they have Type 2 diabetes.

There are several common types of weight loss surgery. The most common is the sleeve gastrectomy, which removes approximately 70 percent of the stomach. It limits eating in two ways: Because the stomach is smaller (about the size of a banana), you feel full faster. The procedure also alters hunger hormones by curbing appetite-boosting ghrelin, a hormone released by the stomach, and raising appetite-satiating leptin, a hormone made by fat cells.

“After the surgery, you crave less and eat less, which helps you lose and maintain weight loss,” Dr. Ballem says. People lose 65 to 70 percent of excess weight, resulting in the resolution of Type 2 diabetes in 90 percent of patients, he says.

To keep the weight off, CMMC offers a multidisciplinary approach. Dietitians and support groups can help with portion and carbohydrate control via education, tasty and healthy recipes and tactics to harness emotional eating.

“These surgeries are tools, not magic wands,” Dr. Ballem says. “Used effectively, they tremendously improve your weight and health.”

How Diabetes Steals Your Health

The pancreas, a pear-shaped organ in the belly, performs two vital functions: pumping out enzymes that break down sugars, starches and fat, and secreting the crucial blood-sugar-controlling hormones insulin and glucagon.

Excess weight and carbohydrate intake hinder the functioning of the pancreas. Glucose floods your bloodstream, damaging the body’s organs and blood vessels. Though the effects take time to be felt, the disease can lead to kidney problems, cardiovascular issues, vision trouble and even the amputation of toes, feet and lower limbs.

Virtual Support

The bariatrics team at Clara Maass Medical Center offers virtual groups for patients and prospective patients:

To learn more about weight loss surgery at Clara Maass Medical Center, call 973-450-2393.