How Can I Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is a growing problem in the United States, but fortunately there are steps that can be taken early for a person to prevent the disorder altogether.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a disorder which the body is not able to make enough insulin to keep the blood sugar under control. About 90 percent of diabetics have type 2 diabetes and type 2 diabetes affects approximately eight percent of the American population, with as many as 25-40 percent of those remaining undiagnosed.
Diabetes is a chronic progressive illness and can lead to serious and debilitating complications when left undertreated. It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, non-traumatic limb amputation, heart attack and stroke.
Common signs and symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, urination, blurred vision and unexplained weight loss. However, most people do not experience any symptoms during the early stage of the disease when intervention is most helpful to reduce or prevent complications.
How do you test for diabetes?
There are three common ways to screen for diabetes: check fasting plasma glucose, perform a two hour glucose tolerance test or measure hemoglobin A1C. The normal value is less than 100 mg/dL for fasting glucose, less than 140 for 2 hours tolerance test, and less than 5.6 for hemoglobin A1C. Fasting glucose greater than 126, two hour checks greater than 200 for the glucose tolerance test, and hemoglobin A1C greater than 6.5 are considered positive screenings for diabetes.
If a person has a blood sugar number higher than normal but lower than the diabetic range, the person is considered to have glucose intolerance, fasting glucose impairment, or pre-diabetes, all of which increase the risk of developing diabetes in the future.
How can I prevent diabetes?
The good news is that diabetes is preventable at this stage. Weight loss, staying active, eating right, and medication (such as metformin) can help to decrease risk. If a person is overweight, a 5-10 percent weight loss can reduce the risk of diabetes by up to 50 percent. Eating a well balanced meal that is rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber and is low fat with lean protein can help to keep blood sugar under control.
Exercise helps, too. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week. It is always beneficial to do activities you find enjoyable and to set aside times in your schedule to perform these types of activities.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious but preventable condition. Early screening and intervention are the keys to avoid diabetes and all the complications associated with it. If you have signs and symptoms of diabetes or if you are at risk of getting diabetes (family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, overweight), please talk with your provider about being screened for diabetes.