Diabetes is a progressive, chronic disease related to your body’s challenges with regulating blood sugar. It is often associated with generalized inflammation. Your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to convert sugar (glucose) to energy that you either use immediately or store. With type 2 diabetes, you are unable to use that insulin efficiently. Although your body produces the hormone, either there isn’t enough of it to keep up with the amount of glucose in your system, or the insulin being produced isn’t being used as well as it should be, both of which result in high blood sugar levels.
While this can produce different types of complications, good blood sugar control efforts can help to prevent them. This relies heavily on lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, dietary changes, exercise and, in some cases, medication. But, depending on your age, weight, blood sugar level, and how long you’ve had diabetes, you may not need a prescription right away. Treatment must be tailored to you and, though finding the perfect combination may take a little time, it can help you live a healthy, normal life with diabetes.
What Causes of Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is most common is those who are genetically predisposed and who are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, have high blood pressure, and/or have insulin resistance due to excess weight. People of certain ethnicities are more likely to develop diabetes, too. These include: African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans. These populations are more likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing diabetes.
As you age, you are also at increased risk of developing diabetes.
A poor diet and smoking can also affect your risk.
What Are the Complications of Type 2 Diabetes?
There are many complications of diabetes. Knowing and understanding the signs of these complications is important. If caught early, some of these complications can be treated and prevented from getting worse. The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is to keep your blood sugars in good control. High glucose levels produce changes in the blood vessels themselves, as well as in blood cells (primarily erythrocytes) that impair blood flow to various organs.
Complications of diabetes are broken into two categories: microvascular (damage to the small blood vessels) and macrovascular (damage to the large blood vessels). They can include:
- Kidney disease (nephropathy)
- Nerve damage (neuropathy), which is most common in the feet and hands, but can also cause erectile dysfunction
- Eye disease (retinopathy)
- Peripheral arterial disease (a disease that affects the vessels in the lower and upper extremities)
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Gastroparesis (damage to the nerves in the stomach)
What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
Often people don’t experience symptoms of diabetes until their blood sugars are very high. Symptoms of diabetes include: increased thirst, increased urination, increased hunger, extreme fatigues, numbness and tingling in the extremities (hands and feet), cuts and wounds that are slow to heal, and blurred vision. Some people also experience other less common symptoms including weight loss, dry itchy skin, increased yeast infections, erectile dysfunction, and acanthosis nigricans (thick, “velvety” patches found in the folds or creases of skin, such as the neck, that is indicative of insulin resistance).
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Make an appointment to see your doctor. The earlier diabetes is caught, the more likely you can prevent complications.
How Can I Avoid Type 2 Diabetes?
While you can’t change getting older, your family history, or ethnicity, you can work on ways to reduce your weight and waist circumference, increase your activity, and lower your blood pressure.
Eating a balanced diet that is rich in fiber, non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fat can help get you to your goal weight and reduce your waist size and body mass index (BMI). Reducing your intake of sweetened beverages (juices, sodas) is the easiest way to lose weight and reduce blood sugars. If you are someone who has high blood pressure and are salt sensitive, aim to reduce your intake of sodium; do not add salt to your food, read package labels for added sodium, and reduce your intake of fast food and take out. Don’t go on a diet. Instead, adapt a healthier way of eating, one that you’ll enjoy for a long time.
Exercising regularly, about 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes per week, can also help to reduce your weight and blood pressure. Finally, if you smoke, aim to quit. Smoking can increase your risk of stroke, blood pressure, and heart attack, and quitting can reduce your risk of diabetes.