If you’ve been recently diagnosed, managing type 2 diabetes might seem like a daunting task. But don’t worry. You’re not alone.
The CDC says more than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and 90-95% of those people have type 2. This type is seen mostly in people over 45, which puts older adults at fairly high risk.
Let’s look at what causes the condition so you can then get a better understanding of some of the best practices for living with diabetes.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition where your body can’t control the amount of sugar that circulates in your bloodstream. That sugar, or glucose, can then reach levels that are too high and eventually cause disorders in your circulatory, nervous, and immune systems.
As far as what causes type 2 diabetes, there are two things at the root of the problem.
- Your pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin, which controls the amount of sugar that gets into your cells, to regulate blood glucose levels.
- The cells in your muscle, fat, and liver develop insulin resistance and take in less sugar than necessary.
The exact cause for those things to happen remains unknown. What we do know is that two key contributors are being overweight and not getting enough physical activity.
Type 2 used to be referred to as adult-onset diabetes. That was changed because it’s possible for children to have the condition, as well. The Mayo Clinic says even though it’s more common for adults, the rising number of children dealing with obesity has led to an increasing number of cases of type 2 diabetes in that age group.
Other Risk Factors
Age, weight, and being inactive aren’t the only risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Family history plays a large role. If a parent or sibling has it, you are more likely to experience it, as well.
Your race and ethnicity also play a factor. It’s not clear why, but Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American people as well as Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than White people.
Additional factors include blood lipid levels, prediabetes, pregnancy-related risks, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
How to Manage Diabetes
Managing type 2 diabetes is primarily about your lifestyle. Often, eating a healthy diet and getting adequate physical activity will keep your blood sugar levels in check. However, in some cases that won’t be enough, and medication will need to be taken.
Putting all of these measures together should put you on the right track, but make sure you’re consulting with your physician to ensure you’re using a plan that’s right for you.
Create Proper Meal Plans
Eating right is important for everyone, but that’s especially true for those living with diabetes. Not only do you have to make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients, but you also have to know how certain foods affect blood glucose levels.
The diet diabetics should follow is similar to the one everyone should follow. Eat balanced meals that have a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats.
Pay particular attention to portion sizes and counting carbs. Carbohydrates can have the biggest effect on blood sugar levels.
You should steer clear of foods that contain a lot of saturated fats, processed meats, shellfish, white breads, sugary drinks, and pasta, to name a few.
Get Enough Physical Activity
The Department of Health and Human Services says you need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. Getting that exercise can help reduce your risk of falls and lower your chances of heart disease, among other things.
Here’s how it relates to preventing diabetes, too.
Your muscles are fueled by sugar while you’re exercising. When you regularly exercise it helps your body use insulin more effectively. Those two factors together can help keep you from getting high blood sugar.
Talk to your doctor about what exercises are best for you. Your physician can help you come up with an exercise plan based on your fitness level. The important thing is that you stick to that plan. Even if you haven’t been active in a long time, just expending a little more energy doing light activities like walking is a good way to start.
Keep Track of Blood Sugar Levels
Checking your blood sugar regularly is going to be another major part of your daily routine. Keeping your blood glucose levels as close as possible to your target ranger can help prevent any complications of the condition.
Take extra care in checking it before, during, and after exercising. Physical activity can lower your blood sugar for up to a day afterward.
Your physician or someone from your health care team will be able to tell you how often you should check your levels and what your target should be.
Medication Use If Necessary
If diet and exercise aren’t enough to control your glucose levels your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower insulin levels.
- Metformin is commonly the first medication prescribed. This one works by lowering glucose production in your liver and making your body use insulin more effectively by making it more sensitive to insulin.
- Sulfonylureas and glinides both help your body produce more insulin.
- Thiazolidinediones make your body more sensitive to insulin.
- DPP-4 inhibitors create a modest reduction in blood sugar levels.
- GLP-1 receptor agonists are medications that are injected into your body. They slow digestion and help bring down blood glucose levels.
- SGLT2 inhibitors reduce blood sugar levels by filtering the sugar out through your kidneys and expelling it from your body as urine.
Side effects for these medications range from symptoms like nausea, low blood sugar, weight gain, and even weight loss all the way to risks of developing other conditions. Make sure you’re thoroughly discussing any potential side effects with your physician before you begin a medication regimen.
Your doctor may also choose to prescribe blood pressure or cholesterol medication as well as aspirin.
Embrace the Lifestyle
If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, don’t panic. It’s NOT a death sentence. You may have to make some lifestyle changes to manage the condition, but you’ll be better off in the long run. Many of these things are going to help you in other aspects of your health, too. After all, Better Health is what it’s all about, and we can help you get there. Find one of our clinics near you today and set up an appointment at your convenience.
Managing type 2 diabetes might be difficult at the start, but you can do this. And remember, you’re not alone. If you need more support you can take a look at the American Diabetes Association’s Community page. It’s a great way to get information from others who are also dealing with diabetes.