Diabetes is a condition of high blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, affecting millions of people. In type 2 diabetes, the body has become unable to manage blood sugar, developing resistance to the natural insulin produced by the pancreas. High blood glucose is the result, leading to the symptoms and complications of the disease.
Although type 2 diabetes is not always caused by obesity, being overweight is a risk factor for developing the disease.
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Increased age – 21% of people over 60 have diabetes
- Family history – Diabetes tends to run in families
- Ethnicity – Diabetes is more common in the African-American, Native American, Latino, Pacific Islander and Asian-American populations
- History of metabolic syndrome
- History of gestational diabetes
How High Blood Glucose Happens
Food is broken down into glucose during digestion. The glucose is released into the blood and the digestion process activates the pancreas to release insulin, which helps the glucose enter the cells of the body where it’s used for energy. When someone is resistant to the effects of insulin, the glucose keeps circulating in the blood and doesn’t reach the body’s cells. This causes the body to try to get rid of the glucose in other ways.
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Unplanned weight loss
- Weakness and fatigue
- Numbness or tingling in hands, legs or feet
- Blurred vision
- Dry, itchy skin
- Frequent infections
- Slow healing of cuts and bruises
Why High Glucose Causes Complications
Excess glucose in the blood causes a lot of problems. The cells can’t get enough of the glucose they need, and when glucose levels in the blood become too high, it causes damage to nerves and blood vessels, usually in the feet, hands, kidneys, and eyes. Other complications of high blood sugar and insulin resistance include increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Neuropathy – nerve damage, especially in extremities
- Nephropathy – kidney damage, kidney failure
- Retinopathy – vision problems, blindness
- Cardiovascular Disease – heart disease and increased risk of strokes
- Erectile dysfunction in men and decreased desire in both men and women
Signs and Symptoms
Type 2 diabetes often does not have any noticeable symptoms, and you may not know that you have it. Regular check-ups with your physician and some basic blood tests will help you find out early in the disease if you have it. Early detection helps you to get control of your blood sugars. If your blood sugar is controlled, then your risk for complications is reduced. Diagnosis includes a fasting blood glucose test and an oral glucose tolerance test.
Medications are usually prescribed in addition to lifestyle changes. The medications work in different ways but their effect is to lower blood glucose and help the body’s own insulin become more effective. If oral medications are not enough, insulin injections may be used to help gain control of glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be turned around with weight loss, a healthy diet and exercise. If your doctor feels that is the case, then positive lifestyle changes that help you lose the excess weight, and regular daily exercise may be enough. With medication or not, diabetes still requires a healthy diet and physical activity for optimum health.
- Medications – oral antihyperglycemic agents, injectable antiyperglycemics, insulin
- Blood glucose monitoring
- Keeping excess weight off
- Dietary changes – more vegetables and fruits, complex carbs and whole grains, fewer over-processed, fatty, starchy, sugary choices
- Daily exercise
Prevention is possible. If you do have risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, it is possible to prevent the disease. Healthy eating, maintaining a normal weight and daily exercise will not only help you feel your best, but may reduce your chances of getting diabetes.
If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may feel overwhelmed. It may seem that everything about your life has to change. It is true that having diabetes changes the way you live your life, but with time, you can incorporate the necessary changes and create a new lifestyle that has your health and well-being at the center of it. It is important to remember that it is possible to control your diabetes instead of letting it control you.