What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in the United States; it affects at least 90 percent of those who have diabetes. It occurs when the blood glucose (sugar) level is too high. Blood glucose is the fuel that the body cells use for energy. Type 2 diabetes occurs because there is either not enough insulin produced by an organ called the pancreas or because the body is less sensitive to the insulin it produces. Insulin helps the body get the blood glucose into the cells.
Most people who have type 2 diabetes are over the age of 40, overweight, and out-ofshape. Weight control, increased physical activity, and, in some cases, diabetes medicine can help improve blood glucose levels. Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. By controlling blood glucose levels, the complications of diabetes, such as kidney disease and blindness, may be delayed or even prevented.
Your Treatment Goals
The main goal for diabetes management is good blood glucose control. The American Diabetes Association suggests that blood glucose levels should be 80–120 mg/dl before meals. Your doctor will recommend a desirable range for you. Keeping your blood glucose as close to your target range as possible will help keep you healthy. Other important health goals for people with diabetes are lowering high blood pressure and decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels. If these are high, you may be more at risk for heart disease and stroke. A big goal for anyone who smokes is to stop! Smoking accelerates all of the problems associated with diabetes, because it cuts blood flow and oxygen to the cells.
Listen! Good Nutrition Matters
Your food choices will affect your diabetes control. Foods that contain natural or added sugar or starch (carbohydrates) will affect your blood glucose more than foods that are mainly protein or fat. A registered dietitian can help you plan a healthy meal plan using a variety of your favorite foods. Controlling calories is important for diabetes control. A weight loss of just 10 to 20 pounds can make a big difference in your blood glucose and blood pressure control. Drinking plenty of water, eating higher fiber foods, and eating less fat will help. Watching your sodium intake is also helpful if you have high blood pressure. Limiting solid fats will help control your cholesterol level. Most people find that eating the same amount of food at about the same time each day helps them control their blood glucose. Skipping meals is a bad idea, especially if you take diabetes medicine. Missing a meal also makes you more likely to overeat later.
You do not need to buy special food for your diabetes. The diabetic meal plan is good for both you and your family. Getting Active Is Important Blood glucose and weight control are very difficult to achieve without regular physical activity. Activity may include merely moving around more during the day, driving less, taking the stairs more often, doing yard work, or walking the dog, all of which increase caloric use.
Regularly scheduled exercise is also good. For weight loss, exercise that gets the heart rate up helps the most. Good choices are brisk walking, swimming laps, water aerobics, and biking. If you have not exercised regularly lately, have a doctor’s exam before you start. The results of this checkup will help you choose the activity that is best for you.
The main goal is to do more of something you enjoy. You should exercise 5 to 7 days a week. Exercising with a partner or group may help you better stick to your program. Exercising at the same time each day may make your blood glucose levels more predictable.
Don’t Forget – Blood Glucose Monitoring
Blood glucose monitoring is the only way to tell how well you have your diabetes under control. Your medical team will tell you how often to check. These blood glucose readings will help you see patterns in your diabetes control. If you have three values at the same time each day that are above or below your target range, you may need to change your eating, exercise, or medication habits. Recording your blood glucose readings, what you ate, what you did that day, and how much medicine you took will help you see those patterns.
There are many monitors available. A diabetes educator or a pharmacist can help you decide which one is best for you. Always take your monitor and blood glucose records with you when you see your medical team. They can test to be sure your monitor is working correctly and that you are checking it properly.
New medicines for diabetes seem to appear every day. Your doctor will decide which medication is right for you. Some people with type 2 diabetes may only require better eating habits and more physical activity to control their diabetes. Medication needs often change over time, so you may switch diabetes medicines or add medicine more than once. Blood glucose monitoring is essential in deciding the correct amount of diabetes medicine for you. Diabetes pills work in different ways. They are not insulin. Some pills cause your pancreas to produce more insulin. Some make your liver produce less blood glucose after meals. Others slow the absorption of carbohydrate. Another type makes you more sensitive to insulin. You may need one or more of these medicines to control your diabetes.
You may need insulin shots. Some people need insulin along with diabetes pills. How often you take insulin depends on how much insulin your body still produces and how closely your doctor wants to control your diabetes. Different types of insulin last different amounts of time. Your medical team will tell you how much of each kind you need to take and how often.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed
Diabetes is a complex disease, and it takes time to develop the skills needed to control it. A certified diabetes educator can help. Ask your doctor to refer you to an educator for diabetes education. A diabetes support group may also help. You will be surprised how much you will learn and how much easier it is to adjust your diabetes care so that it fits your lifestyle.