November is American Diabetes Month, and this week the Need to Know topic is type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes. It is the most common form of diabetes, and you probably know by now that more and more Americans are diagnosed with it every year, and they’re being diagnosed at a younger age. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 23.6 million adults and children living with diabetes in the U.S., or nearly 8 percent of the population. It is the seventh leading cause of death.
Diabetes results when your body does not produce enough insulin, or it ignores the insulin it does produce. Our bodies need insulin in order to produce energy from glucose. Every time you eat, your body breaks down all sugars and starches into glucose, and insulin then transports that energy from the blood and into your cells. When our bodies become insulin resistant, we store all of that glucose instead of efficiently using it as fuel. And the pancreas is then signaled to produce more insulin, and it is impossible for our bodies to keep up with the imbalance. Over time, an excess of glucose can have damaging effects on your kidneys, eyes, heart, and nerves.
Because body fat can interfere with a body’s ability to utilize insulin, people who are overweight are at a higher risk for becoming insulin resistant and developing type 2 diabetes. Risk factors include a low activity level, a poor diet and excess weight, especially around your middle. Other risk factors include reaching an age of 45 or older, high blood pressure, and a triglyceride level greater than 250 mg/dl, or an HDL (good) cholesterol level of less than 35 mg/dl.
Symptoms of diabetes include blurry vision, fatigue, frequent or slow-healing infections, find yourself experiencing one or more of these, and you have risk factors, including a history of diabetes in your family, contact your doctor right away to ask about testing.
Not surprisingly, two of the best ways to prevent diabetes are to eat right and get plenty of exercise. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s also important to eat at close to the same time every day, so there is no spike or crash in your glucose. The goal is to bring your gluose level down, and then stabilize it. This can be achieved by working with your physician or nurse to develop a meal plan that includes healthy foods that will not cause a rapid increase or decrease in blood sugar. Finally, regular physical activity will help lower blood sugar, help you manage your weight, and improve blood pressure, without medication, so get moving, even if it’s a daily walk around the block. Whatever exercise you can manage to do will help.
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Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes?
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