Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

By Sonya Collins
WebMD Feature

It sounds too good to be true: reversing type 2 diabetes through exercise and healthy eating.

While certain lifestyle changes are key to managing diabetes, whether you can actually turn back time so that it's like you never had diabetes at all is a different matter. That depends on how long you've had the condition, how severe it is, and your genes.

Make Changes That Count

"The term 'reversal' is used when people can go off medication but still must engage in a lifestyle program in order to stay off," says Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of diabetes translation at the CDC.

Shedding extra pounds and keeping them off can help you better control your blood sugar.

For some people, reaching a healthier weight will mean taking fewer medications, or in rarer cases, no longer needing those medications at all.

Losing 5% to 10% of your body weight and building up to 150 minutes of exercise a week may help you  to slow or stop the progress of type 2 diabetes.

"If you sit [inactive] most of the day, 5 or 10 minutes is going to be great," Albright says. "Walk to your mailbox. Do something that gets you moving, knowing that you're looking to move towards 30 minutes most days of the week."

The Proof

In one study, people with type 2 diabetes exercised for 175 minutes a week, limited their calories to 1,200 to 1,800 per day, and got weekly counseling and education on these lifestyle changes.

Within a year, about 10% got off their diabetes medications or improved to the point where their blood sugar level was no longer in the diabetes range, and was instead classified as prediabetes.

Results were best for those who lost the most weight or who started the program with less severe or newly diagnosed diabetes. Fifteen to 20% of these people were able to stop taking their diabetes medications.

Don’t Blame Yourself

If you make changes to your diet and exercise routine, and your diabetes doesn’t improve, it's not your fault, Albright says.

"The earlier in the course of the [condition] that you make these changes, the more likely you are to stack the deck in your favor that you won't progress," Albright says.

Your weight and lifestyle aren’t the only things that matter. Your genes also influence whether you get type 2 diabetes. Some thin people are living with type 2 diabetes, too.

Still, your weight and lifestyle are things you can change, and they are important parts of your overall health.

Know the Goal

What you’re aiming for: Your best health, not someone else’s. Diet and exercise alone will control diabetes for some people. For others, a combination of medication and healthy habits will keep them at their best.

"If you have been able to manage on lifestyle intervention alone, continue to do that. If you need to go on medication, do what's necessary [for] your health," Albright says. "You need to take advantage of the treatment that's going to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check."

Reviewed on March 08, 2013

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article