The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is on the rise. Research studies continue to show increases in the percentage of adults, as well as children who are contracting this disease. What are the risks? What are the signs and symptoms? Can you do anything to prevent yourself or your loved ones from developing type 2 diabetes? Let's find out. Diabetes is a disease characterized by above normal levels of glucose in the blood. People who suffer from the disease are not able to effectively use the energy from food. The insulin that is produced by their bodies is not used appropriately to help convert glucose into usable energy. As blood levels of glucose rise, the cells of the body are starved of energy. Over the long term, a host of complications occur, such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, amputation and kidney disease.
The risks of developing type 2 diabetes include:
Being older and being overweight
A family history of the disease
Native American, African American, Hispanic or Asian American background
Gestational diabetes or having at least 1 baby born weighing greater than 9 lbs
Being inactive and exercising less than 3 times per week
High blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels
Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Having a history of heart disease or of insulin resistance
Unfortunately, millions of people (over 6 million Americans included) have type 2 diabetes and don't even know it. Eventually, they seek medical attention when they are having heart trouble or blurred vision. Common symptoms include:
Increased thirst or hunger for no apparent reason
Need to urinate frequently, especially at night
Unexplained weight loss
Open sores that are not healing
Lack of energy and fatigue
Blurred vision as mentioned above
Diabetes is a long-term progressive disease that will be with you throughout your life. The complications mentioned previously can be delayed through proper medical treatment along with lifestyle changes, however "prevention" is the key. You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by:
Losing weight (even 10 lbs if you weigh 200 lbs will help reduce the risk)
Exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes most days (walking, gardening, etc.)
Eating a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables and keeping saturated fat levels low.
Quitting smoking and reducing your intake of sodium (salt) and alcohol.
Taking your blood pressure or cholesterol-lowering medication as prescribed by your doctor.
The above recommendations also apply to you if you do develop type 2 diabetes. You should also take care of your feet and see your physician, eye care specialist and dentist on a regular basis. Consider adding yoga or meditation to your weekly regime to help manage any additional stress.
And of course, all of the recommendations apply to your loved ones. Be active and eat well as a family, supporting each other in the achievement of a healthy, fit and fulfilling life.