by Jennifer Shafer, MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner
Diabetes is a word that many of us don’t like to hear, especially when it may affect us personally. What are the facts? Today, diabetes can be treated successfully and improve our quality of life.
How common is it? Out of 333 million Americans today, a little more than 10% have been diagnosed with diabetes. The vast majority of those are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Of the rest of the American population, one in three is likely in a pre-diabetic condition (33.2%). If you personally have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes or may be pre-diabetic, what does that mean?
Medical professionals at SICHC have successfully diagnosed and treated many hundreds of patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Based on that experience and professional resources, we’ve put together some useful information. The key here is becoming aware prior to experiencing major symptoms. The good news is you can prevent or delay prediabetes from developing into Type 2 Diabetes with lifestyle changes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Insulin is a very important hormone made by your body in your pancreas. Insulin allows your body to convert sugar into energy and provides many other functions. Type 2 Diabetes describes a condition where the cells in your body don’t respond normally to insulin, and you experience elevated blood sugar. You may hear this described as insulin resistance, particularly when one is pre-diabetic. When this occurs your blood sugar can start to rise. If this condition is left untreated it can lead to prediabetes and then to Type 2 Diabetes.
Why is elevated blood sugar not good?
Untreated high blood sugar can damage your body and affect every major organ. As Type 2 Diabetes advances, these issues can include heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease, as well as nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy), gum disease and other dental problems, and sexual and bladder problems. No one wants any of these conditions.
What contributes to the development of Type 2 Diabetes?
Some of the causes include becoming overweight, especially if the weight is belly fat. Physical inactivity – sitting around without much or any exercise – can help lead to a pre-diabetic condition. Family history, genetic changes, physical damage to the pancreas (through an accident), and certain medicines may also lead to a diabetic condition. Though Type 2 Diabetes most often develops in adults, children can develop it as well, especially if they are overweight and have at least two other identified risk factors for developing diabetes.
How do you know if you have Type 2 Diabetes?
The best, reliable source is testing regularly., Type 2 Diabetes develops slowly with few overt warning signs. Many people live with a diabetic condition until major symptoms show up. (Type 1 Diabetes is much different). Typically, only when you experience advanced tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, extreme fatigue, blurred vision, or heart trouble will you suspect that diabetes might be a cause.
What tests can diagnose Type 2 Diabetes?
There are a number of tests that can help you find out if you have diabetes or if you may be pre-diabetic. These include the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, the A1C test (also called the hemoglobin A1C, HbA1C, glycated hemoglobin, and glycosylated hemoglobin test) and a random plasma glucose (RPG) test. If you had your blood sugar tested at a health fair or pharmacy, follow up at a clinic or doctor’s office to make sure the results are accurate. The medical professionals at SICHC can determine which test would be best for you.
If I have Type 2 Diabetes, what will I have to do?
The good news is that Type 2 Diabetes is usually very treatable. Many people respond well to these two things – eat healthy and get active. If you are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, your healthcare provider at SICHC will help you develop a plan to address your condition with good outcomes. You may need to check your blood sugar level regularly using different methods. You may also be prescribed certain pills or, in some cases injectable medication (insulin or non-insulin) to help control your blood sugar level.
How can I reduce my risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
Most people can minimize or outright avoid a possibility of developing Type 2 Diabetes by practicing moderation, changing their diet, getting regular simple exercise, and avoiding eating excess sugar (found in high-sugar drinks, candy, and pastries). All of these positive steps can also help you keep excess pounds off, which will likely increase your persona energy levels and quality of life. Taking steps to improving your blood sugar levels also has the benefit of improving other areas of your life, so you can win all the way around. Some risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes such as your family history, age, or ethnicity are beyond your control, but your SICHC provider can help you positively identify options.
Take charge of your condition and make better food choices. Becoming aware of what you actually eat and how much is a simple step that can reduce your risk of pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. Educate yourself by reading food labels, begin to select foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt. Focus on fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, chicken or turkey, fish, lean meats, and reduced fat or low-fat milk and cheese. Skip sugar-sweetened beverages and drink more water, especially before and after exercising. Look for recipes that offer flavor and satisfy your taste buds – this is not about being relegate to bland and tasteless fare. Many herbs and spices that deliver flavor are also good for you.
Lose excess weight. Keep it simple to begin with, set a goal to lose a modest amount of weight and your risk goes down. What does that look like? Lose 5 to 7 percent of your starting weight (for example, set a goal to lose 10 to 14 pounds if you weigh two hundred pounds. (Not sure if you need to lose a few pounds? Ask your SICHC provider.)
Increase your activity level. Simply walking 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes is a great place to start. Work up to a lifestyle goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity 5 days a week. The key to making it sustainable is to find something you like to do – walking, jogging, playing basketball, tennis, or other sports. If it’s been a while since your last checkup, it’s always a good idea to ask your healthcare provider at SICHC about the level of activity you can safely start with.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. The medical professionals at SICHC are ready to meet you where you are. All plans end up being unique, so together you can determine what works for you.
Remember—While Type 2 Diabetes is a serious condition, it’s very treatable. You can take charge and get it under control, and improve your overall health in the process.