What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar (glucose), its main fuel source.
With it, the body either resists the effects of insulin, a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells, or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. There's no cure for type 2 diabetes, but you can manage, prevent or even reverse the condition.
Signs or Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes symptoms may develop very slowly. In fact, you can have type 2 diabetes for years and not even know it. Look for:
- Increased thirst and frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss. Without the ability to metabolize glucose, the body uses alternative fuels stored in muscle and fat. Calories are lost as excess glucose is released in the urine.
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores or frequent infections.
- Areas of darkened skin. Some people with type 2 diabetes have patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds and creases of their bodies called acanthosis nigricans, which may be a sign of insulin resistance.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Excess weight and inactivity seem to be contributing factors.
Insulin is a hormone. When you eat, the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. The secretion of insulin from the pancreas is reduced as your blood sugar level drops.
Glucose (a sugar) comes from two major sources: food and the liver. Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream after intestinal digestion and absorption. Normally, sugar then enters cells with the help of insulin.
The liver acts as a glucose storage and manufacturing center. When insulin levels are low, the liver metabolizes stored glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose level within a normal range.
With type 2 diabetes, instead of moving into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.
- It is unknown why some people develop type 2 diabetes. Risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Fat distribution. The risk of type 2 diabetes is greater if the body stores fat primarily in the abdomen vs. that stored in the hips and thighs.
- Family history. Your risk increases if your parent or a sibling has the disease.
- Race. Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than whites.
- Age. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45. Type 2 diabetes is also increasing among children, adolescents and young adults.
- Pre-diabetes. When blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes, it can progress to type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes. If developed during pregnancy the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later increases.
Type 2 diabetes affects many major organs including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Controlling blood sugar levels can help prevent these complications.
Some potential complications of diabetes include:
Heart and blood vessel disease; nerve (neuropathy), kidney (nephropathy), eye and foot damage; skin and mouth conditions; osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease; hearing problems.
- Eat healthy and be physically active each day
- Wear a tag or bracelet that says you have diabetes. Keep a glucagon kit handy.
- Schedule a yearly physical exam and regular eye exams.
- Practice good oral hygiene.
- Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, sores, redness or swelling.
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol controlled.
- Avoid tobacco use.
- Use alcohol in moderation.
- Avoid stress.
- Plant-based products like cinnamon, aloe vera, fenugreek, ginseng and nopales can naturally help stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Minerals like Chromium picolinate and zinc can be effective in improving insulin response.
- Diet and exercise can help you prevent the disease.
- Choose foods low in fat and calories. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.
- Lose weight.
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