For those with Type 2 or at risk of it, simple lifestyle choices can mean the difference between a mostly normal life and one filled with serious health complications.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease that develops when the pancreas can't make enough insulin or when the body's tissues become resistant to insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that helps the body’s cells use sugar (glucose) for energy. It also helps the body store extra sugar in muscle, fat, and liver cells. Without insulin, this sugar can't get into your cells to do its work. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood sugar level then gets too high.
High blood sugar can harm many parts of the body. It can damage blood vessels and nerves throughout your body. You will have a bigger chance of getting eye, heart, blood vessel, nerve, and kidney disease.
Your weight, level of physical activity, and family history affect how your body responds to insulin. People who are overweight, get little or no exercise, or have diabetes in the family are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is usually found in adults, which is why it used to be called adult-onset diabetes. But now more and more children and teens are getting it too.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that you will always have, but you can live a long and healthy life by learning how to manage it.
What are the symptoms?
Many people have symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, weight loss, and blurred vision. Some people do not have symptoms, especially when diabetes is diagnosed early.
How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?
Most likely you found out that you have diabetes when you saw your doctor for a regular checkup or for some other problem. Your doctor probably diagnosed type 2 diabetes by examining you, asking about your health history, and looking at the results of blood sugar tests.
How is it treated?
You play a big role in your diabetes treatment. A healthy diet helps keep your blood sugar under control and helps prevent heart disease.
Eating the right amount of carbohydrate at each meal is very important. Carbohydrate is found in:
- Sugar and sweets.
- Bread, rice, and pasta.
- Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn.
- Milk and yogurt.
A dietitian or a certified diabetes educator can help you plan your meals.
Losing weight, eating right, and being more active are enough for some people to control their blood sugar levels. Others also need to take one or more medicines, including metformin (Glucophage) or insulin.
You may need to take other steps to prevent other problems from diabetes. These problems are called complications. You may need medicine for high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you smoke, quitting smoking may help you avoid having a heart attack and stroke.
People with diabetes are more likely to die from heart and blood vessel problems like heart attack and stroke. Talk to your doctor about whether you should take low-dose aspirin. Daily low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) may help prevent heart problems if you are at risk for heart attack or stroke.
What kind of daily care do you need?
The key to managing your diabetes is to keep your blood sugar level within your target range. You can do this by:
- Making healthy food choices. Eat a balanced diet, and try to manage the amount of carbohydrate you eat by spreading it out over the day. Lose weight if you need to.
- Being active. Walking is a great way to start.
- Testing your blood sugar levels. You have a better chance of keeping your blood sugar in your target range if you know what it is from day to day.
- Keeping high blood pressure and high cholesterol under control. This can help lower your risk of other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.
- Taking medicines, such as metformin (Glucophage) or insulin, if you need them.
- Not smoking. Quitting smoking reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke.
It seems like a lot to do at first. You might start with one or two changes. First focus on checking your blood sugar regularly and being active more often. Then work on the other tasks as you can.
It can be hard to accept that you have diabetes, especially if you don't have any symptoms. It's normal to feel sad or angry. You may even feel grief. Talking about your feelings may help. Your doctor or other health professionals can help you cope with your diagnosis.
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