Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with
type 2 diabetes, and many more are unaware they are at high risk. Most are over the age
of forty, but the number of children and teens being diagnosed with type
2 diabetes is on the rise.
Insulin is necessary for the body to use glucose for energy by transferring
the sugar from the blood to the cells. When you eat food, the body breaks
down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel
for the cells in the body. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not
produce enough insulin and becomes resistant to normal or even high levels
of insulin, or both. Diabetes complications can occur when glucose builds
up in the blood instead of going into cells.
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include: a family history of
diabetes, being overweight, not being very active, having had diabetes
during pregnancy, having given birth to a baby over nine pounds and being
over forty years old. Being of African American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic
or Native American descent increases your risk.
With the rise of diabetes, it is important to understand how to delay the
onset and even prevent the disease. Engaging in a healthy lifestyle through
diet and exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Early detection is key in helping to avoid complications.
Achieving a healthy body weight through exercise and diet has been shown
to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in high risk populations.
A healthy body weight is considered to be a BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 kg/m2.
Moderate weight loss through weekly exercise and engaging in dietary strategies
that reduce both caloric intake and consumption of dietary fat can decrease
the risk of developing diabetes. Physical activity has been shown to increase
insulin sensitivity and the American Diabetes Association recommends 30
minutes of exercise five times a week.
Dr. Nadeau, program director at the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center
and Kris V. Iyer Endowed Chair in Diabetes Care, suggests choosing a diet
rich in whole grains and healthy fats for even more protection against
diabetes. He adds that “Skipping the refined grains and sugary soda,
and limiting red meat and avoiding processed meat — including bacon,
hot dogs, and deli meats — can also help lower diabetes risk.”
He recommends substituting with healthier protein sources such as nuts,
beans, poultry, and fish.
Screening for diabetes, specifically with a routine blood test, is suggested
at least every three years in patients with any of the risk factors listed
above. Early detection can help delay the complications of diabetes. A
fasting blood glucose reading above 100 mg/dl should be discussed with
your clinician. While diabetes is generally considered a silent disease,
signs of high blood glucose such as increased thirst, hunger, or urination
should trigger you to see your primary care provider to request a blood
test to evaluate your sugar levels.
Remember, the key to preventing diabetes is enjoying a healthy lifestyle
through a well-balanced diet, consistent exercise and early screening.