Is Diabetes Progressive?

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

At the diabetes conference the experts were talking over their snacks of bagels and Cokes. One of them said, you know that diabetes is a progressive disease, don't you?

The others agreed. "We try to help them control it, but they usually can't. It just gets worse as long as they live."

Little do these "experts" know Such 20th century thinking!

They mean progressive as in "it gets progressively worse." Not!

Yes, diabetes is progressive when treated with the same old advice. All you need, they say, is to get your A1C down to 7.0. Eat a high carb, high glycemic diet. Exercise when you feel like it for 20 minutes or so a day. Lose 10 percent of your body weight.

That's easy. But it is not enough to avoid the sort of diabetes progress that no one wants.

Diabetes is progressive, but only if you let it progress to your complications and demise. Thinking that diabetes is progressive is not only wrong, it's self-defeating. Diabetes certainly can be progressive, but only if you let it progress to your ruin.

You can even progress away from diabetes. Dr. Richard K. Bernstein has certainly proved this not only with thousands of his patients but also in his own life.

He writes in the introduction to his major book, Dr. Bernstein Diabetes Solution (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007, third edition) that he rejected the received wisdom that the progressive deterioration of his body was "normal."

He was even able to reverse almost all the complications of the type 1 diabetes that he's lived with for 61 years. "My deformed feet, the droopy eyelids, and the loss of hair on my lower legs are not reversible and still remain," he writes. But he suffers from no other diabetes complications unlike practically everyone still alive who developed diabetes in 1946 when he did.

It's certainly true that diabetes used to progressively worsen with most everyone and still does with many of us. Many diseases remain progressive. My eyesight, my hearing, my BPH are all getting a bit worse. They are "progressing," as the medical establishment likes to sugar-coat it with a word that sounds good. But my diabetes isn't progressing, and yours doesn't need to either.

Diabetes is not progressive with the right diet and enough exercise. Some people think that's hard. But in one sense it's easy. It's the lifestyle that anyone, with or without diabetes needs to follow to maintain optimal health. With good health everything you do is easier.

We have progressed beyond thinking that diabetes is progressive.

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.