Type 2 diabetes is a form of diabetes mellitus and it’s one of the most commonly known types of diabetes, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers shows that 30.3 million people in the U.S. – 9.4% of the United States population has some form of diabetes, with type 2 diabetes being the most common.
Out of these 30.3 million people, 7.3 million aren’t even aware that they have this disease, which is troubling, and especially so, because an increasing number of children and adolescents are constantly being diagnosed with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
This disease can be chilling, no matter if you have a type 2 diabetes diagnosis or your family has a history of the disease. With all the changes it brings to our lives, ranging from a strict diet and changes to our lifestyles to an increased risk for requiring amputation of a limb or heart disease – nobody can blame you for wanting to avoid it at all cost.
However, your life doesn’t have to be as difficult. When you get to know all the facts about type 2 diabetes, like how insulin resistance occurs and how to avoid it, how to recognize the first signs of diabetes, as well as the diet you need to get on to when you do get diagnosed with it, you will have a much easier time to treat the disease and make the necessary dietary changes in order to lead a satisfying life.
Additionally, more and more research has been made on the subject, and most of that research shows that you even have a chance of reversing type 2 diabetes with simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.
In the text that follows, you will be presented with that information and much more. All you have to do is sit down, continue reading and you can be sure that by the end of this article, you will find out that type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you will have to give up on all of your life plans.
What is insulin resistance, and how it leads to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes?
Before we move on to the topic, we first need to explain and understand what type 2 diabetes is. This particular type of diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar which your body can’t lower without any help. High blood sugar is also known as hyperglycemia, as opposed to hypoglycemia which is low blood sugar.
The reason behind high blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes is a condition called insulin resistance, a term your doctor might have brought up during your diagnosis, which results in a drop of insulin production in the body. These two conditions are what differentiates type 2 diabetes from type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and all other types of diabetes.
The production of insulin (used for blood sugar regulation) occurs in the pancreas. Insulin resistance is essentially a condition wherein our body cells are unable to process insulin the way they’re supposed to. Due to that condition, our bodies need an increased amount of insulin so as to transport glucose (blood sugar) into cells for immediate use or storage for later use. This drop of efficiency in glucose transportation creates an array of issues for cell function as glucose is the most easily available energy source for our bodies.
What makes insulin resistance complicated is that it happens gradually, and the symptoms aren’t always visible, which, in turn – makes diagnosis very difficult to make.
As the insulin resistance increases, the pancreas reacts in kind, producing an ever-increasing amount of insulin. This eventually leads to hyperinsulinemia (an increased level of insulin in the bloodstream).
This essentially makes the pancreas work overtime, which is very taxing and not sustainable, as the insulin production ability of the pancreas eventually decreases. When it drops to below a certain threshold, the resulting increase of blood sugar levels will lead to prediabetes, which is a type 2 diabetes precursor, or it will even lead directly to type 2 diabetes.
All is not lost though, as prediabetes diagnosis isn’t a sure sign that you will develop type 2 diabetes. If the diagnosis is made in time, the process can be reversed by specific changes to your diet and lifestyle.
What affects the risks of developing type 2 diabetes?
Regardless of the fact that prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are among the most common diseases in the world, with 100 million U.S. citizens being affected by it, researchers still can’t pinpoint what exactly causes insulin resistance.
So what do they know? Diabetes is a rather complex disorder, which makes it difficult to avoid since you can’t simply stop eating sugar or start working out to prevent it.
However, some of these factors seem to be prevalent when diabetes diagnosis is given:
- Obesity puts you in a significantly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Poor diet, or eating the wrong foods may also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some studies have shown that eating food rich in calories, refined foods and drinks like sodas or fruit juices will significantly increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. The same goes for the opposite – not eating the right amount of whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can lead to the same result.
- Watching too much TV, or sitting for prolonged periods of time might also increase your chances of becoming obese, often leading to type 2 diabetes and other disorders.
- Bad sleep habits harmfully affect the body’s insulin and blood sugar balance, which in turn – increases the workload for your pancreas. If this keeps on for a prolonged period of time, type 2 diabetes is a possible diagnosis in the future.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is bad news for women, as women that have this hormone imbalance disorder are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as opposed to women that don’t have this disorder.
- Being older than 45 also increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. However, lately, the number of children and teens with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes diagnoses have been increasing as well.
Is type 2 diabetes genetic?
Apart from diet and lifestyle, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes can also be affected by your genetics.
This claim is backed up by some research that was done on twins. In short, the research showed that identical twins have higher chances of both of them developing diabetes when compared with fraternal twins. Additionally, if you have a relative affected by diabetes, the chances of developing diabetes yourself are increased by a factor of four.
Some data also suggests that ethnicity and race might also be a factor for type 2 diabetes. African-American, Hispanic, or Latino American (and even some Native-American) groups have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, as opposed for Caucasian-Americans.
Tells and signs of type 2 diabetes and how to get an early diagnosis
While in the early stages, type 2 diabetes doesn’t manifest any symptoms. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know about the symptoms and early warning signs of the disease. Some of them include:
- Frequent urination and increased thirst
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
- Increased hunger
- Blurry vision
- Dark, velvety patches of skin, also known as acanthosis nigricans
- Wounds that won’t heal
If you are an individual that has one or more risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, or you display any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor, as type 2 diabetes might be a high possibility.
The most common tests for type 2 diabetes
When it comes to diabetes management, early diagnosis is of great importance. According to the American Diabetes Association, overweight people aged 45 and older should get diagnostic tests for type 2 diabetes every three years.
In order to check if you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor might do one of these diagnostic tests:
Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test – a two-to-three month measurement of average blood sugar levels. With 5.7% A1C levels being normal, everything between 5.7% and 6.4% is an indication for diabetes, and readings equal to 6.5% or higher on two different tests most usually means you have diabetes.
The fasting glucose test involves submitting a blood sample after an eight-hour fasting period. If your fasting blood sugar level is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), your blood sugar levels are considered to be normal. However, if these levels increase to anywhere between 100 and 125 mg/dl, it means you have prediabetes, while results over 126 mg/dl on two different tests mean you have diabetes.
A1C and fasting glucose are common diagnostic tests that are designed to diagnose diabetes, but if you’re pregnant, your doctor might do some other tests like oral glucose tolerance test or random blood sugar test.
Treatment options for type 2 diabetes
If you get a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, there’s a high probability that you will get a prescription for Glucophage (metformin), which helps bring down your blood sugar levels.
However, metformin isn’t the only medication that you can use. There are other treatment options for type 2 diabetes, and some of them include:
Sulfonylureas and meglitinides work by stimulating the pancreas production of insulin.
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors help by slowing down the digestion of some carbs, which helps prevent the increase of blood sugar levels after a meal.
Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are a group of drugs that increase insulin sensitivity, which, in turn – stabilizes your blood sugar levels.
DPP-4 inhibitors work by blocking the production of an enzyme called dipeptidyl peptidase 4, which helps the body to increase its insulin production.
GLP1 antagonists is a group of medications that promote insulin production in the pancreas and slow down the absorption of glucose in the stomach.
All of these mediations aside, diabetes can also be treated by making certain changes to your lifestyle: a healthier diet, physical exercise, and stress management. Apart from these lifestyle changes, you’ll also need to take a better care of your body, i.e., taking a better care for your feet and oral hygiene, as well as maintaining a better mental health.
Are basal or bolus insulin doing anything for type 2 diabetes management?
If you are having trouble controlling your blood sugar levels with medications, healthy diet, and changes to your lifestyle, you might need to consider incorporating basal or bolus insulin into your anti-diabetes arsenal.
The way basal insulin helps with type 2 diabetes is by controlling your blood sugar levels in between meals or during the night while you’re sleeping. When it comes to bolus insulin, what you’re dealing with is a fast-acting type of insulin. What’s different about it is that its effects last shorter than basal insulin.
Things to know about bariatric surgery
Bariatric surgery is yet another treatment for type 2 diabetes management. While it does have some risks involved, there’s some research that suggests it might be a possible cure for type 2 diabetes.
What to eat and avoid for better blood sugar levels management?
A specific “diabetes diet” doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean that our food choices don’t play a role in our blood sugar levels management.
When diagnosed with diabetes, there is a large number of packaged and processes snacks like cookies, chips, cakes, and similar that need to be avoided, while fresh, whole foods that are rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are highly recommended. High fibrous foods help manage blood sugar levels and keep you full for a longer time, which, apart from the aforementioned benefit, will also help with weight loss and better insulin sensitivity.
Taking care of your calories can also help if you’re overweight, but type 2 diabetics should also pay more attention to the number of carbohydrates they ingest. This can prove to be difficult as carbs are a part of many staple foods, some of which contain bad, and some good carbohydrates. An example of good carbohydrate source are fruits and vegetables, while the bad sources include pretzels and cookies.
Besides paying attention to what you eat, you should also be mindful as to when you eat. Regular meal schedules are a good way of managing steady blood sugar levels.
Don’t worry though, a diabetes diagnosis doesn’t mean you should abandon all your favorite food. A steady and managed diabetes-focused diet is essentially a healthy diet, and you can contact registered dietitians that will help you create a meal plan that works for you and your needs, and help manage your blood sugar while enjoying your food as well.
How to prevent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)?
People with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In the effort to manage these variations of blood sugar levels, you have several options such as signs, main causes, and treatment options.
How do you get high blood sugar with type 2 diabetes?
In between meals, the normal blood sugar levels can range is anywhere between 70 to 100 mg/dl. After a meal, these levels can reach up to anywhere between 120 and 130 mg/dl with some exceptions when it goes above 140 mg/dl.
However, for people with type 2 diabetes, these levels are higher, and can raise above 200 or 300 mg/ml, and even 400 mg/ml in some rare cases. Without proper management, these levels can get much higher, and diabetics are advised to follow their doctor’s orders in order to bring them down.
Since high blood sugar levels to don’t always show any symptoms, it is of huge importance to constantly measure your blood sugar levels, as per instructions by your doctor.
The main symptoms that indicate high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) are:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme thirst
- Feeling tired and weak
- Blurry vision
- Feeling hungry, even after eating
When you receive your type 2 diabetes diagnosis, you should work together with your doctor in order to come up with a treatment plan that will help you maintain it within some normal levels.
There are chances of developing hyperglycemia even after you start your treatment, as diabetes makes it close to impossible to avoid hyperglycemia. It might even happen without any obvious reason.
The causes behind hyperglycemia might are:
- Not taking your prescribed medicines, taking them when you’re not supposed to, or in the wrong dosage
- Eating large portions, full of carbohydrates - knowingly or unknowingly
- Not enough sleep
- Emotional or mental stress
- Intense exercise
- Diseases or infections
How do you get low blood sugar with type 2 diabetes?
Even though low blood sugar is a more common occurrence for type 1 diabetes, people that have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have also been reported to develop it, an occurrence that is more typical for people that are taking insulin.
For diabetics, low blood sugar is characterized with a drop in blood sugar levels under 70 mg/dl, but this might be different for different people.
Some of the causes behind hypoglycemia are:
- Fast decrease of your body’s supply of glucose
- Slowed down release of glucose in the bloodstream
- High concentration of insulin in the bloodstream
While different people might show different symptoms when having low blood sugar, here are some of the most common symptoms for hypoglycemia:
- Increased hunger
- Excessive sweating, regardless of temperature
- Shaking or tremors
- Sudden anxiety
- Unexplained mood swings, and emotional outbursts that are not characteristic for you
- Confusion or bad concentration
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Difficulties falling asleep, night sweats, nightmares, or feelings of confusion after you wake up
Keep advised that if hypoglycemia isn’t treated in a timely manner, it might result in serious complication leading to seizures, coma, or in some extreme cases – death.
Diabetics might develop hypoglycemia if they:
- Take their insulin regularly, but they skip meals, or eat less
- Take some medication that might develop it as a side effect
- Are doing intense exercise without eating enough
- Drink too much alcohol
If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor has probably given you some instructions on how to eat when you develop hypoglycemia.
If you think your blood sugar level has dropped, you should eat 15 to 20g of carbohydrates. After 15 minutes, do another check of your blood glucose levels and, if they’re still low, eat another dose of carbohydrates.
Some healthy sources of carbohydrates for hypoglycemia include:
- Glucose tablets
- Glucose gel
- Juice or regular soda (excluding diet soda)
- Sugar, honey, or corn syrup
- Hard candies, jelly beans, or gumdrops
Your family members, coworkers, or people that you’re close with should be instructed on how to give a glucagon injection in case of an extreme hypoglycemic attack and you can’t administer it by yourself.
Which complications can type 2 diabetes cause, and how to live with it?
If you have type 2 diabetes, you will surely be concerned about future health issues like limb amputation, heart diseases, and sight loss. However, having to live with type 2 diabetes doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you will encounter one of these health issues.
According to the National Institutes of Health, it is possible to prevent the long-term complications of type 2 diabetes, and, if that’s not the case – you can even reverse or slow them down by controlling your:
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
- Blood cholesterol
You are advised to discuss the intensity of control with your doctor whenever you make a visit.
If you’ve been living with diabetes for a long time, and are of age, it is of great importance to know your A1C goal and levels, as you are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes health issues.
Health complications caused by poor type 2 diabetes management
If you’re experiencing regular blood sugar imbalances, there’s a chance you have an increased risk of these type 2 diabetes health complications:
- Cardiovascular disease – Apart from people that are not diabetics, people that got diagnosed with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a heart disease, and statistics show that they also get them at a younger age, and their heart complication is more severe than the former. Diabetics also have a twofold increased risk of dying due to heart disease when compared to non-diabetics.
In order to lower your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, or treating them, if you have them – you should do a combination of specific lifestyle changes and there’s a chance you might need to get some medication as well.
- Diabetic retinopathy – People that develop diabetic retinopathy are have an issue when their high blood sugar levels causes weakness to their capillaries that supply nutrients to the retina – a light-sensitive layer of tissue placed in the back of the inner eye.
This causes the capillaries to swell, get blocked, or start leaking blood into the center of the eye, which leads to blurred vision. During the advanced stages of this condition, there’s the possibility of growth of new and abnormal blood vessels. When they start leaking blood, it leads to severe sight loss or complete blindness.
- Diabetic neuropathy – Otherwise known as nerve damage, it can affect any nerve in the body. The most common nerves that get affected are those in the limbs (feet, legs, hands, and arms), and then it’s called peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy can cause a tingling sensation, accompanied by burning, pain, and/or numbness in the areas that are affected.
While being difficult to manage, pain caused by peripheral neuropathy can be alleviated by some products that contain capsaicin.
Additionally, prescription products can also help alleviate this pain, and some of them include antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
- Diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease) – When it comes to diabetic nephropathy, or kidney disease – the nephrons in the kidneys can get damaged due to the excessive high blood sugar levels in the body.
This problem can become more severe due to the high blood pressure, including high cholesterol.
During its early stages, diabetic nephropathy doesn’t necessarily show any symptoms. However, any standard blood and urine test can detect some early signs of dysfunction, helping you stop or slow down the progression of this condition.
About 40% of diabetics will develop kidney disease.
- Diabetic ulcer – Diabetics are also at an increased risk of developing foot ulcers, or open sores.
These ulcers are problematic as they are painless and people might not even notice they have them at first. They take up to several weeks to heal, and are the main cause of hospital stays for diabetics.
If you are a diabetic, regular examination of your feet and legs are of great importance in order to identify diabetic ulcers and start getting treatment for them in time.
Diabetics also have sexual issues, gum disease, sleep apnea, including red or brown lesions, otherwise known as diabetic dermopathy.
How to live with type 2 diabetes?
Aging, sadly, is also a big risk factor for type 2 diabetics, which means that with age, the disease might increase your risk for health complications.
The tips we’re about to show you can offer some form of help with staying healthy and manage your blood sugar levels:
- Follow the advices of doctors, which should include a podiatrist, an endocrinologist, a registered dietitian, and other specialty health professionals
- Carefully follow your medication regimen, and follow any medication adjustments recommended by your doctors
- Take insulin if recommended to do so
- Don’t smoke, or if you are smoking – quit
- Lead diabetes-friendly diet and control your portion sizes
- Regular exercise
- Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels
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