New approach takes insulin, risk of heart problems out of Type 2 Diabetes treatments

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A different way of treating patients with Type 2 Diabetes takes away the insulin and, according to one KC cardiologist, it also takes away much of the threat of heart problems for patients.

James O’Keefe said as a cardiologist, it’s sometimes frustrating to see the struggles his patients with Type 2 Diabetes go through.

“People like Bernie, with Type 2 Diabetes -- seven out of 10 of them will die from cardiovascular disease,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe said insulin, the typical way of treating diabetes, is a life-saving medicine, especially for those with Type 1 Diabetes. However, it can create problems for people with Type 2 Diabetes.

“Insulin for a diabetic, for a Type 2 Diabetic, is like pouring gasoline on a fire," he said. "It causes weight gain around the middle. It causes blood pressure to go up. They hang onto fluid. It makes it impossible to lose weight, and it probably increases cardiovascular risk.”

O’Keefe said other treatments are proven to help diabetics with their diabetes and cardiovascular issues. They’re called SGLT2 Inhibitors and GLP-1 agonist treatments, and O’Keefe said they’re life-changers for patients.

“They lose weight. They feel better, and in the long run, the important thing is, this saves lives,” O’Keefe said.

The KC cardiologist said they keep a patient in better cardiac condition. Bernie Ray said the new medication helped him.

“Well, the weight loss is the first thing you notice. It’s almost like magic or something in my case anyway,” Ray said.

He lost 30 pounds and said his energy levels also went way up compared to how he felt on insulin. Now he can vacuum the whole house without stopping. It may not sound like much, but he used to have to take a break.

Bernie Ray

“My wife is really kind of impressed with the work, some of the things I do,” Ray said.

But the greatest comfort for him is knowing his heart is better off now than it was before.

“My father died with heart problems, and my mother and both of my brothers died, so that gives you concern right there,” he said.

O’Keefe warns that these alternative treatments aren’t for everyone; the change has to be closely monitored by a doctor, and the treatments can be pricey.

“They are expensive, so these are new therapies that are expensive,” O’Keefe said.

Ray said the new treatment was actually cheaper than his insulin treatment, and for him, the peace of mind and better quality of life is worth the uncertainty of changing his medicine.

Again, make sure to work with your doctor to find out if these new treatments are suitable for you.