Of the two variations of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2, the latter is much more prevalent. Type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 95 percent of total diabetes cases. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits and paying close attention to risk factors, it is possible to prevent this serious disease.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
A body impacted by Type 2 diabetes produces insulin, but its cells are unable to properly recognize or respond to the insulin. An exact cause is unknown, though there are direct links between Type 2 diabetes and obesity, lack of exercise and advanced age. Type 2 usually affects people later in life and develops slowly, which is why it’s often referred to as “slow-onset diabetes.”
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Because the disease takes effect slowly, your blood sugar levels might rise so gradually that you aren’t even aware of the change. In face, more than 33 percent of people with the disease don’t know that they have diabetes. As the illness progresses, the following symptoms are tell-tale signs of Type 2 diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Decreased energy levels
- Feeling moody or irritable
- Increased healing time and susceptibility to infection
- Tingling or numbness in feet and hands
- Blurred vision
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which has hereditary links, Type 2 diabetes is closely tied to lifestyle factors. By implementing simple changes and practicing careful awareness, you can drastically reduce your likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits
The Finnish Diabetes Prevention Group conducted a study that followed 500 overweight individuals with pre-diabetes symptoms — glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes — and studied the effects of weight loss, diet and exercise. The results provided conclusive evidence that lifestyle changes, specifically weight loss and increased levels of physical activity, could reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50 percent.
- Adopt healthier eating habits that include an assortment of fresh fruit, vegetables and lean protein. Limit your salt and saturated fat intake and increase your fluid intake, opting to for water instead of soda or sugary sports drinks.
- Increase your level of physical activity, making a conscious effort to get some sort of exercise every day. If possible, ride your bike to work instead of driving, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- If you are overweight, consult your doctor to determine your ideal body mass index (BMI), and design a plan to effectively and efficiently achieve your weight loss goals.
- Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. Increased levels can be contributing factors for Type 2 diabetes. Consult your doctor, and determine the best way to reduce unhealthy levels. Certain medications can be beneficial, but sometimes it’s as simple as modifying your lifestyle to incorporate healthful foods and increased physical activity.
Although lifestyle changes are the ideal way to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes, sometimes medication is required for supplemental prevention. For instance, if you are not overweight, but have a genetic predisposition for high blood pressure or cholesterol, medication may be necessary to achieve healthier levels. Consult your doctor before introducing over-the-counter medications into your routine, and before making drastic changes to your diet.
For more information, visit the Johnston Health Center for Diabetes Education.