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Be Proactive to Defeat Type 2 Diabetes

April is Defeat Diabetes Month!

According to the International Diabetes Foundation, roughly 425 million people are living with diabetes. Another 352 million people are estimated to be at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and accounts for nearly 95% of diabetes cases worldwide. The disease is responsible for millions of premature deaths and disabilities even though it and its complications are largely preventable.

In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it; but, over time, your pancreas isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose levels normal.

Some with type 2 can control their blood glucose with healthy eating and being active. But, your doctor may also need to prescribe oral medications or insulin to help you meet your target blood glucose levels. Unfortunately, the disease usually gets worse over time. If you don’t need medications at first, you may need it later on.

How Close Are You to Type 2?

Although the signs of diabetes can begin to show early, sometimes it takes a person a while to recognize the symptoms. This often makes it seem like signs and symptoms of diabetes appear suddenly, that’s why it’s important to pay attention to your body. Here are a few type 2 diabetes symptoms to watch out for from JDRF:

  • If you’re experiencing frequent urination your body might be telling you that your kidneys are trying to expel excess sugar in your blood. The resulting dehydration may then cause extreme thirst.
  • Along the same lines, the lack of available fluids may also give you dry mouth and itchy skin.
  • If you experience increased hunger or unexpected weight loss it could be because your body isn’t able to get adequate energy from the food you eat.
  • High blood sugar levels can affect blood flow and cause nerve damage, which makes healing difficult. Having slow-healing cuts or sores is also a potential sign of diabetes.
  • Yeast infections may occur in men and women who have diabetes as a result of yeast feeding on glucose.

Pay attention if you find yourself feeling drowsy or lethargic; pain or numbness in your extremities; vision changes; fruity or sweet-smelling breath (a symptom of high ketones); and experiencing nausea or vomiting—these are all signs that something is not right. Visit your doctor immediately to ensure your blood sugar levels are safe and to rule out diabetes.

If You Get a Diagnosis

Those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may discover that if they’re overweight at diagnosis and then lose weight and begin regular physical activity, their blood glucose returns to normal. Does this mean diabetes has disappeared? No, explains the Joslin Diabetes Center. The development of type 2 diabetes is a gradual process, too, in which the body becomes unable to produce enough insulin for its needs and/or the body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. Gradually the patient goes from having “impaired glucose tolerance,” a decreased, but still adequate ability to convert food into energy, to having “diabetes.”

If the patient were to gain weight back or scale back on their physical activity program, high blood glucose would return. If they were to overeat at a meal, their blood glucose probably would continue to go higher than someone without diabetes. Also, the decreased insulin production and/or increased insulin resistance that led to the initial diabetes diagnosis will gradually intensify over the years and during periods of stress. In time, the patient who could maintain normal blood glucose with diet and exercise alone may discover that he or she needs to add oral diabetes medications—or even insulin injections—to keep blood glucose in a healthy range.

The good news is that if insulin, medication, weight loss, physical activity, and changes in eating result in normal blood glucose, that means the diabetes is well controlled and the risk of developing diabetes complications is much lower. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that the diabetes has gone away.

Best Bet? Avoid It Altogether

Type 2 diabetes prevention is proven and possible. Taking small steps, such as eating less and moving more, can help you prevent or even delay type 2 diabetes. The information below is based on the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) research study, which showed that people could prevent or delay type 2 diabetes even if they were at high risk for the disease.

Set a weight loss goal: If you’re overweight, set a weight-loss goal you can reach. Try to lose at least 5 to 10% of your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 10% weight-loss goal means that you’ll try to lose 20 pounds.

Follow a healthy eating plan for weight loss: Research shows you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing weight by following a reduced-calorie eating plan and being more active each day. When making food choices, use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages to see how many calories and fat grams are in the foods you choose.

Move more: When you move more every day, you’ll burn more calories. This can help you reach your weight-loss goal and keep the weight off. Even if you don’t lose weight, being more active may help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Find ways to be active every day. Start slowly and add more activity until you get to at least 30 minutes of physical activity, like a brisk walk, five days a week.

Track your progress: Research shows that those who keep track of their weight and activity reach their goals more often than those who don’t. Weigh yourself at least once a week. Use your phone, a printed log, online tracker, app, or other device to record your weight, what you eat and drink, and how long you’re active.

Talk with your health care team: Ask your health care team about steps you can take to prevent type 2 diabetes. Learn about other ways to help reach your goal, such as taking the medicine metformin. Also, ask if your health insurance covers services for weight loss or physical activity.

Get support for changing your lifestyle: It’s not easy to make and stick to lifelong changes in what you eat and how often you’re active. Get your friends and family involved by asking them to support your changes. You can also join a diabetes prevention program to meet other people who are making similar changes.

The most important thing to remember is that Type 2 diabetes is preventable…if you listen to your body. Not watching what you eat, skipping that daily walk, or avoiding regular check-ups and blood work at your doctor’s office could lead to serious health issues, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and more. Be proactive and take charge of your body now to ensure a long, healthy life.

Dr. David Herminghuysen, at CCHC New Bern Internal Medicine Specialists, is board certified in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. He is currently accepting new patients and would be happy to discuss any concerns you may have about your kidney health and provide any education materials you might need. To make an appointment, call 252-633-5333.

(Sources: American Diabetes Association; International Diabetes Federation; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; National Institutes of Health Joslin Diabetes Center; and World Diabetes Foundation.)