Healthcare Insider Blog

Doctors of Physical Therapy may have a small window of action when working with pre-diabetic adolescents

  • Healthcare Alvernia

As doctors of physical therapy you will see a wide range of patient populations, including those who are pre-diabetic or are living with diabetes. Diabetes has been an epidemic sweeping the country for years, ranked in 2013 by the CDC as the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

However, according to another CDC report released this month, the annual number of new cases of diagnosed diabetes has dropped from an all time high of 1.7 million in 2009 to 1.4 million in 2014. Though the number has gradually decreased over the years, this year the decrease was significant enough to catch the attention of professionals and those in the public.

“It seems pretty clear that incidence rates have now actually started to drop,” said Edward Gregg, one of the CDC’s top diabetes researchers, in a recent New York Times article. “Initially it was a little surprising because I had become so used to seeing increases everywhere we looked.”

In a recent blog post we discussed treating patients with diabetes, but what about taking preventative measures for those who are susceptible?

A study released earlier this year by Diabetologia found that physical activity can lower insulin resistance (IR), a major precursor to type 2 diabetes, but only during a specific time period. The study showed that IR levels were 17% lower in physically active 12 to 13-year-olds as opposed to those less active. Yet, when adolescents reached age 16, physical activity no longer affected IR levels.

“Our study found that physical activity reduced this early-teenage peak in insulin resistance but had no impact at age 16,” explained Dr. Brad Metcalf, one conductor of the study, in a Science Daily article. “A reduction in this peak [adolescents 12-13] could lessen the demand on the cells that produce insulin during this critical period, which may preserve them for longer in later life.”

This is not to say that there are not many other health benefits to physical activity. However, when it comes to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in adolescents and lowering IR levels, the study indicates that there is a small window that physical therapists can take advantage of in terms of preventative actions for pre-diabetic patients.

Those pursing their doctorate of physical therapy at Alvernia will be well prepared to treat a variety of patient populations. Yet, in addition to the many resources learned here, DPT students can also benefit from additional resources such as the American Physical Therapy Association’s Guide to Diabetes, sharing treatment tips, recommended exercises, and extensive reading material featuring scientific evidence of best practices for physical therapist management of diabetes.

Effective November 12, 2014, Alvernia University has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314; phone: 703-706-3245; email: Candidacy is not an accreditation status nor does it assure eventual accreditation. Candidate for Accreditation is a pre-accreditation status of affiliation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education that indicates the program is progressing toward accreditation.

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