Type 2 Diabetes

A chronic health condition in which a person has increased levels of sugar in the blood is called Type 2 diabetes. The main cause of this condition is the body’s inability to react to insulin effectively or its inability to produce it.

In normal circumstances, insulin helps the cells to use glucose as energy. However, in people with type 2 diabetes, the cells are not able to respond to insulin as they should. Moreover, in later stages, the body is not able to produce insulin.

Not treating this condition, may lead to serious complications and severe symptoms.

Symptoms

Usually, the symptoms develop slowly and they are different among patients. Check below some early symptoms of type 2 diabetes:

  • Lack of energy
  • Persistent hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Vision changes (such as blurred vision)
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet or hands
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)

Furthermore, as the condition progresses, the symptoms can become more severe and lead to certain complications. Examples include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy (eye problems)
  • Neuropathy
  • Nephropathy (kidney disease)
  • Gum disease
  • Heart problems (such as myocardial infarction)
  • Stroke

In case you experience the symptoms of complications, you should see a doctor immediately.

Causes

In normal circumstances, when a person eats the pancreas produces and releases insulin that helps glucose to be used by cells for energy. However, if you experience this health condition, the body becomes resistant to insulin and not using the hormone correctly. As a result, this effect forces your pancreas to produce more insulin, which may damage its cells. Therefore, the pancreas cannot produce any insulin.

However, it does not matter if your body cannot use the insulin or if a lack of production leads to starved body cells. Experts do not know exactly the cause of these events.

Mostly, the cause of type 2 diabetes is an individual’s lifestyle choices. In the following cases, your risk of developing this condition increases. Examples include:

  • People over 45 years old
  • Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American people or Alaska Native descendent
  • Family history of type 2 diabetes or obesity (this condition can elevate your risk of developing diabetes and insulin resistance)

Risk Factors

Some of the risk factors are out of control including your age and family history, others can be prevented. Examples include

  • Excess weight (it is advised to maintain a healthy weight)
  • Sedentary lifestyle (aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day)
  • Diet (avoid large amounts of processed foods because they contain a lot of sugar and refined carbs)

Diagnosis

If you suspect you have prediabetes or diabetes, consult a doctor right away. Physicians will ask you some questions about symptoms and your medical history. They can also order you to do some tests. For example:

  • Hemoglobin A1C test – This test helps to measure the average blood glucose levels. It is also known as a Glycosylated hemoglobin test.
  • Fasting plasma glucose test – This test helps to determine the amount of glucose in the plasma. Usually, you need to fast for 8 hours before taking it compared to the hemoglobin A1C test where you do not need to fast.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test – A doctor will draw the blood 3 times before and after you consume a dose of glucose. It helps to verify how your body deals with glucose.

In case you are diagnosed with this condition, your healthcare provider can help you to manage it. Examples include:

  • How to monitor blood glucose
  • Dietary plan
  • Physical activity recommendations
  • Medicines you need

In some cases, healthcare providers may direct you to an endocrinologist. Regular appointments with your doctor are recommended to make sure the treatment is working.

Treatment

The treatment of type 2 diabetes depends on the underlying cause and the severity. In addition, your doctor may suggest some lifestyle changes that will help to improve your condition. Examples include:

  • Adopt a healthy diet rich in healthy carbohydrates and fiber. For example fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Eat at evenly-spaced times
  • Learning how to stop eating when you are full
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight
  • Maintain your heart health by reducing animal fats, sweets, and refined carbohydrates
  • Regular exercise can help to control blood sugar. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical exercise daily.

Moreover, your doctor can help you recognize when your glucose levels are too high to too low and what to do. You may need to use insulin in case your pancreas does not produce enough but not everyone with this medical condition needs insulin.

Medicines

There are some cases when lifestyle changes are not enough to control type 2 diabetes and your doctor will prescribe you some medications. Examples include:

  • Metformin – This medication reduces your blood sugar levels and improves the body’s response to insulin. Commonly, it is used as a primary diabetes treatment.
  • Sulfonylureas – These drugs help your body produce more insulin.
  • Meglitinides – Short-acting medications that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin.
  • Thiazolidinediones – They increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
  • Dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DDP-4) inhibitors – DDP-4 inhibitors are mild medicines used to decrease levels of sugar in the blood.
  • Glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists – These drugs slow digestion and improve levels of glucose in the blood.
  • Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors – These are medications that help the kidneys remove the sugar through urine.

Medicines listed above can cause some adverse reactions. Thus, it may take time to find the best medicine for you. In case you have cholesterol or blood pressure problems, you may need some additional treatments.

In some cases, people need insulin therapy because their pancreas does not produce enough insulin. However, others get a long-acting injection or administer insulin several times daily.

Diet

This is very important for heart health and healthy blood sugar levels. The diet for people with diabetes is the same that everyone should follow. The main key actions include:

  • Eat foods high in nutrients and with decreased empty calories.
  • Do not think so much about portion sizes and stop eating when you are full.
  • Before buying any foods, it is advised to read food labels to ensure they do not have refined carbohydrates and to check the sugar levels.

What are Foods That I Should Limit or Avoid?

  • Processed meats (including salami and hotdogs)
  • High-sugar and highly processed snacks (including cookies, cereals, and others)
  • Refined baked goods (such as white bread and cake)
  • Margarine
  • Sugary drinks (including regular soda and some fruit juices)
  • Foods rich in saturated or trans fats (such as red meat, full-fat dairy products, and others)

For more details, discuss with your doctor about a dietary plan based on your blood sugar levels.

What are The Best Foods for Type 2 Diabetes?

Diet for this health condition does not necessarily mean without carbs at all. You can eat healthy carbohydrates that provide fiber and energy. Examples include:

  • Whole fruits
  • Non-starchy vegetables (including carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and others)
  • Legumes (such as beans)
  • Whole grains (such as quinoa or oats)
  • Sweet potatoes

Check below some foods with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Flax seeds
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Tuna

You can also get monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from many foods. For example:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts (including pecans, walnuts, and almonds)
  • Oils (such as olive oil)

It is advised to visit a doctor for more details.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the possible complications of type 2 diabetes?

In case this condition is left untreated, it may impact all organs and cause life-threatening complications. Examples include:

  • Skin disorders (such as bacterial or fungal infections).
  • Neuropathy (nerve damage) that provokes digestive problems (such as vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation), and others.
  • Poor blood circulation can lead to gangrene and loss of the foot or leg.
  • Hearing impairment
  • Retinopathy (retinal damage) may cause glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Cardiovascular disease (including hypertension, angina, myocardial infarction, stroke, and others)
  • Diabetes increases the risk of women experiencing a heart attack. It also affects male sexual health. Men with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED) than those without this medical condition.
  • Hypoglycemia – It happens when a person has low sugar levels in the blood. The most common symptoms are shakiness, difficulty speaking, dizziness, and others. However, you can fix this problem quickly with fruit juice, soft drinks, or hard candy.
  • Hyperglycemia – In such cases, an individual has increased blood sugar levels and it leads to frequent urination and increased thirst.

If you suspect you have any of the previous complications, do not hesitate to see a doctor.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

The causes of these conditions are different. For example, type 1 diabetes happens when the body’s defense (immune system) attacks the pancreas cells, which leads it to stop insulin production. In people with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces fewer amounts of insulin than usual and the body becomes resistant to insulin. Consult with your physician for more details.

What is life expectancy in people with type 2 diabetes?

With early diagnosis and proper treatment, there is a good chance that an individual will live as long as someone without this health condition. Ask your healthcare provider if you have any other questions.

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