What You Need to Know about Diabetes Type 2
We all know someone who has it. Diabetes type 2 is common and seems like an epidemic these days, but what exactly is it, and what can we do about it?
First, it’s essential to understand the fundamental differences between diabetes type 1 and 2. Type 1 diabetes is most commonly a childhood disease caused by a lack of insulin production in the pancreas. Insulin drives glucose (sugar) into the body’s organs and cells for energy. If insulin is not produced, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, which can become toxic. Patients who develop type 1 always require insulin treatment by injection. Most type 1 patients develop the disease in childhood, though some acquire it later.
Type 2 diabetes has the same outcome but by a different mechanism. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to the insulin the pancreas produces and does not normally respond to it. The pancreas may try to overcompensate by making more until it effectively becomes useless in meaningful insulin production. Oral medications have been designed to decrease insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes patients. In progressive severe cases of type 2, oral medications can become ineffective and synthetic insulin injection is required.
Both diabetes types result in similar complications. People with uncontrolled diabetes often develop cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, visual loss, blindness, and neurological issues. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure in this country. Symptoms of diabetes include increased urination, thirst and hunger, weight loss, and weakness Severe cases, in those who do not seek medical attention when symptoms progress, can result in a diabetic coma.
Now that I may have scared you, let me tell you the good news: These problems can be significantly reduced, and risks avoided if diabetes is controlled and managed by the patient and his or her physician. As a practicing physician, I see most type 2 diabetes develop over time in the patients that come in yearly for well-checks. I find that they become pre-diabetic before diabetes occurs. For example, a person may present to the office after obtaining fasting labs (lab blood tests performed after the patient has not eaten anything for a period of time) with a recorded blood glucose level of 115.
A normal fasting blood sugar is anything less than 100 and diabetes is defined as a blood glucose level greater than 126. This person is pre-diabetic (blood glucose between 100-126) and obviously is at risk for developing diabetes at any time.
At a reported score of 115, I would immediately start the pre-diabetic patient on several lifestyle changes, including a diabetic diet and exercise program. In most cases, we would be able to reverse the disease process and at the very least, prolong the process of converting into full-blown diabetes. Even in those people who do end up developing diabetes, if they dedicate themselves to following this type of healthy diet and exercising program, I can state with a strong level of certainty as a doctor, they will at the very least require less medication, develop fewer complications from the disease and prolong the time frame whereby they may require insulin.
Most often, type 2 diabetes develops in people who are overweight. The facts are staggering today: 60% of the U.S. population is overweight, and 30% are obese. It is estimated that up to 50% of the population may develop diabetes because of the overweight and obesity epidemic. I’ve been blogging and talking about reducing sugar intake and the number of simple carbs (bread, pasta, rice, cereal), while increasing complex carbs (including various fruits and vegetables), nuts, and other naturally occurring foods in our diets. Making these diet changes will decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, reduce other weight-related disorders, help people maintain a healthy weight, and make them feel great.
If those with diabetes or those at risk for diabetes follow this advice and an exercise program, they will successfully decrease the chances of diabetic complications. They will also reduce the number of medications required to control the disease and possibly reverse the process altogether. The best part is you will save money on medications, doctor visits, and testing. True story…. I promise!
If you enjoyed learning more about this topic, you may also want to read my (Dr. Kulka) review of the Top 10 Benefits of Regular Exercise.
The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
Healthy Tips and Tricks Delivered to your Inbox
Enter your email below and I’ll send you delicious recipes, articles, and tips to get control of your health and simple steps to maintain it.
Dr. Kulka is a board-certified family medicine physician with 20 years of clinical experience. Placing an emphasis on improving wellness and avoiding illness, Dr. Kulka has a passion for educating people about their health, weight loss options, and specific medical concerns in an easy-to-understand way.
If you, like so many people, struggle to be consistent with your healthy diet and exercise routine, or feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start on your journey to a healthier lifestyle, check out our Seriously Simple Steps to Health and Wellness program.