Understanding type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus type 2, is a life-long medical condition where the body develops a high resistance to insulin leading to elevated blood-sugar levels. It is a metabolic disorder which destabilizes the metabolism of sugar (glucose) in the body. The hormone insulin is responsible for regulating the movement of sugar in the cells, where they are converted to energy. In a diabetic individual, the body either stops producing adequate insulin or starts opposing its effects. With no glucose-regulating hormone in the body, the sugar levels start rising which leads to the onset of serious medical complications.
Type 2 diabetes makes up for almost 90% of all diabetes cases.
This condition is not completely curable, but proper medications and lifestyle changes can help control the severity of the symptoms.
The US alone has more than 27 million people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Studies indicate that 1 out of 3 people might be in the pre-diabetes stage (blood sugar higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes).
The rate of people being affected by this condition has seen a sharp increase since the 1960s, indicating that this disease has been primarily a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, facilitates glucose transport from the bloodstream to the cells. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body starts resisting the functioning of this hormone. Over time, the pancreas starts producing more insulin to compensate for the supposed decrease in the hormone. Since the glucose is not reaching the cells, the body starts feeling deficit of energy. Even though the exact cause of this hormonal malfunction is not identified, there are a number of reasons which can add to the occurrence of this disease:
- There is a marked correlation between a person being obese or over-weight and his/her tendency to become diabetic. More fats in the body lead to higher resistance to insulin. The chances of developing this condition increase further if the fat deposition is high in the abdomen area.
- Sedentary lifestyle and no physical activities result in the blood sugar remaining unused. This also decreases body’s sensitivity to insulin. Stress is also a dominant factor.
- Faulty dietary patterns such as high consumption of sweetened drinks, trans-fats, saturated fats etc add to the chances.
- A family history of diabetes often renders an individual more susceptible to this condition. Certain genetic predispositions also dictate the working of insulin.
- Other metabolic conditions such as PCOS (Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) and hyperthyroidism are also contributing factors. Lack of sleep, which directly affects metabolism, is also linked to the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
- It frequently affects people above the age of 45 and has been detected more in certain races and ethnicities such as Hispanics and Asian- Americans.
How do the symptoms appear?
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually go undetected in the initial stages.
It has been estimated that there are around 8 million people who don’t know that they are suffering from it.
In many people, it takes several years to realize that they have diabetes.
The following are the classic symptoms associated with this condition:
- Increased urination, aka polyuria, is one of the most characteristic symptoms of diabetes. Along with it, the individual also experiences increased hunger and thirst.
- Difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight. Most diabetic patients witness a drastic weight loss as the body starts using muscles and fats as fuels.
- The ability to heal wounds is compromised and the body becomes more susceptible to infections especially yeast infections.
- The high sugar levels affect the fluids in the eye causing blurring of vision.
- The person experiences prolonged fatigue and pain in the feet.
If left undetected, type 2 diabetes can lead to much serious health complications such as cardiovascular problems (angina, stroke, or atherosclerosis), nerve and kidney damage, diabetes-induced blindness (diabetic retinopathy), foot complications requiring amputation or even Alzheimer’s Disease.
How is type 2 diabetes detected?
In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, the following tests are conducted to confirm the presence of type 2 diabetes:
- Glycated hemoglobin test which reveals the blood-sugar levels with the past few months. It should ideally be below 5.7%.
- Random blood sugar test, where the blood is collected at any time of the day. Values higher than 200mg/dL are suggestive of diabetes. Similarly, fasting blood sugar test is conducted on an empty stomach, which, if higher than 126mg/dL indicates type 2 diabetes.
What is the cure for type 2 diabetes?
As previously mentioned, this disease cannot be completely cured and it continues life-long.
The treatment procedure includes management of the disease and controlling the severity of symptoms.
Managing diabetes, especially type 2, demands a complete overhaul of lifestyle and habits which contributed to the manifestation of the condition.
The following methods should be adopted regularly by a diabetic patient to reduce the bodily complications:
- Regularly monitor blood-sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Maintaining a nutrient-rich diet which includes whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Regulating the intervals between meals is also very important in controlling glucose spikes in blood. Food items which have low-glycemic index values should be consumed more.
- Packaged food, processed and baked goods and sugary items should be avoided at all costs.
- Exercising, at least for an hour every day to keep your heart and blood-sugar both in check.
- Anti-diabetic medications such as Metformin are prescribed in the initial stages. Additionally, if required the individual is also given insulin injections.
How can you prevent type 2 diabetes?
While some risk factors (genetics, race, age etc.) cannot be avoided, type 2 diabetes can be prevented by bringing healthy changes to lifestyle. The inclusion of the following habits can help keep type-2 diabetes at a bay, especially in case of pre-diabetic patients:
- A healthy and balanced diet with fewer dairy, sugary, and fatty products.
- Eating at regular time intervals.
- Being physically active, with at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- It is the most common form of diabetes with almost 95% of all diabetes cases being of type 2 category.
- If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is above 25, there are higher chances of you getting type 2 diabetes. But it is not the only deciding factor.
- Certain other factors add more to the risk factors such as being sedentary, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, having PCOS etc.
- Around 44% of all renal failure cases are associated with type 2 diabetes.
- Currently, 29 million Americans are suffering from diabetes, and 25% of these are not aware that they have this condition.
- There has been a massive increase in the number of people suffering from type 2 diabetes (A 382% increase in the past 25 years).
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of deaths in the USA.
- Around 60% of all lower-limb amputations (excluding the ones from trauma) have been a result of diabetes.
- Type 2 diabetes has got more to do with lifestyle and diet choices than with genetic factors.
- If you have given birth to a baby who is heavier than 9 pounds then you are at a risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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Dos and Don'ts
- Type 2 diabetes management includes a complete transformation of lifestyle such as eating high-nutrient food and doing proper exercise.
- Stress reduction and adequate sleep are also key factors in the treatment.
- Conduct frequent blood sugar checks, especially 2 hours after meals.
- Smoke in diabetes, as it increases cardiac, renal, and nerve deterioration.
- Cut on whole-wheat based carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread and pasta.
- Consume any kind of packaged or processed food or skip meals.
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