Dodge Type 2 diabetes
Just as there’s no such thing as being a little bit pregnant, there’s no such thing as being slightly diabetic. Even if blood glucose levels are under control – kept as nearly normal as is safe for the individual – there is still the possibility that levels will change over time or when the body is challenged by illness or stress.
More than 90 per cent of adults with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. Their bodies either don’t make enough insulin (a hormone produced in the pancreas that lowers blood glucose) or can’t utilize it properly to turn food into usable energy.
Some of them, whose fasting blood glucose levels are only slightly higher than the normal limit of 7.0 mmol/L (the commonly used unit of measure for blood sugar), may not realize the importance of keeping track of their blood glucose results.
Diabetes damages blood vessels and nerves and even without symptoms, lasting damage may already be occurring. Improperly managed diabetes can eventually produce serious complications, such as heart disease and stroke, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage leading to amputation, and premature death.
Good health by choice
Those risk for developing Type 2 diabetes may be able to dodge the disease. Alexis Mantell, a spokesperson for the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), says there is plenty of medical and scientific evidence the disease may actually be prevented through diet and exercise.
About two and a quarter million Canadians have diabetes, but a third of them don’t realize they have the disease. Approximately 40 per cent of people with diabetes will suffer complications, so it’s hardly surprising that older people with diabetes require twice as much home care as others the same age.
Risk of developing diabetes increases with age. Ten percent of seniors over 65 have Type 2 diabetes, compared to three per cent of people 35 to 64 that suffer from it. The CDA predicts that over the next two decades, as baby boomers reach the at-risk threshold, there will be an increase of up to 50 per cent in the number of people with diabetes. After studying the latest medical and scientific data, the CDA lowered by five years the age at which people should be considered at risk for diabetes, to age 40.
Factors that can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes can also include a sedentary lifestyle; having a family member with diabetes; being of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent; having high blood pressure and/or high blood fats; and being overweight, with the weight carried mostly above the hips, sometimes referred to as an “apple-shaped figure”.
How to prevent diabetes
The Canadian Medical Association reports that 80 to 90 per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Weight control combined with physical activity may help people at risk for diabetes manage their disease or prevent its development in the first place.
The CDA advises a total of 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking, in combination with resistance exercises to strengthen muscle groups. But before beginning an exercise program, individuals should check with a physician, especially if they have not had an active lifestyle.
Early and aggressive regulation of heart-related risk factors is vital since cardiovascular complications cause death in 80 per cent of people with diabetes. The CDA recommends keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and blood fat (cholesterol and lipids) levels as close to normal as possible, lower than was once considered acceptable. Smoking cessation is also firmly advised.
Watch for these symptoms
Although some may not notice symptoms of the disease, others may feel extremely tired, are abnormally thirsty, lose or gain weight, need to urinate frequently, have slow-healing wounds, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in outer extremities and erectile dysfunction.
Dentists or eye care specialists may notice changes in dental health or eyes that signal the possibility of diabetes and will recommend patients see a physician as soon as possible. Lab tests may find glucose and protein in the urine, but an elevated blood glucose after an all-night fast is indicative of the disease.
If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it’s time for you to act. Monitor your blood glucose levels. Follow the diet recommended by your doctor or dietician and become as physically active as your physician suggests. If diet and exercise do not completely control your diabetes, you may be prescribed an oral medication or insulin injections.
Expect to develop a long-term relationship with your health care practitioner since your diabetes is here to stay. Diabetes is a variable, chronic disorder. By learning as much as possible about it and following your doctor’s recommendations, you should do just fine.