Less is more than nothing

I often ask my patients to make huge changes to their habits. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all.

I feel most people, given enough support, can make really big changes like this–ones that can dramatically alter and extend their lives. And they can stick with these changes, too.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Or intimidating. The fact is, sometimes baby steps are just plain easier to handle…at least in the beginning.

I get that. Which is why I thought I would tell you about a new review that shows that even little changes can make a big difference.

Little changes like losing just a couple of pounds. Or taking a brisk 15- to 30-minute walk after dinner every night.

Yes, that daily walk I keep hounding you about can cut your risk of heart disease by 10 percent. Same goes for dropping your HbA1c–a measure of long-term blood sugar control–by .5 percent.

You can see similar improvements just by reducing your blood pressure by a mere 2 to 5 points. (This can drop a diabetic’s risk of heart disease death by 18 percent, at a minimum.)

Meanwhile, modest losses of just 2 to 5 percent of your body weight–a few measly pounds for most people–can slash your diabetes risk dramatically.

I’ve mentioned this many times. Obesity increases your risk for metabolic syndrome. And that, in turn, doubles your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

But for every two pounds you lose–yes, two pounds–you reduce your risk of diabetes by 16 percent.

Obviously, losing weight is critical. That’s why I talk about it so much. Research continues to reveal clear linear links between weight loss and drops in long-term blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides.

Again, even a small loss chips away at these risk factors in a significant way. What’s more, it can also translate to impressive reversals in fatty liver–one of the most prevalent diseases in the country today.

And when I say impressive, I mean it. Losing 5 percent or less of your body weight can reduce hepatic (liver) fat by as much as a third. (Lose more than 10 percent of your body weight, and you can cut fatty liver by 80 percent.)

So you can see why I had to mention this. Because, really? Making any positive change is important. All too often, people use the excuse that they couldn’t give up sugar, or find time to exercise every day…you fill in the blank. So they stopped doing anything healthy.

But accomplishing something small is always better than doing nothing at all. And this study is proof positive of that.

Even little changes can add up to something amazing, so long as you’re consistent with them and stick with the plan.

And that’s all I ever ask.

Taking small steps towards targets – perspectives for clinical practice in diabetes, cardiometabolic disorders and beyond. Int J Clin Pract. 2013 Apr;67(4):322-32.