Type 2 Diabetes is an epidemic — and fully treatable.
Over 30 million people in the U.S. live with diabetes. Roughly 90-95% percent of those people have Type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In recent years, diagnosed cases of Type 2 diabetes have been on a rapid rise, signaling that this preventable disease has reached epidemic proportions.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is often referred to as adult-onset diabetes. This means that you weren’t born with a diminished capacity to produce insulin and regulate your blood sugar levels.
Could you be at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes?
You may be prediabetic or have a family history that puts you at a higher risk for developing full diabetes. The good news is that Type 2 diabetes, and even prediabetes, are fully treatable and catching these conditions early can help prevent health complications.
What can happen if I develop Type 2 diabetes and it goes untreated?
Untreated diabetes means your body lives in a constant state of high blood sugar levels. This can lead to nerve damage and blocked blood vessels, ultimately causing limbs and appendages to become deformed or even die. Unchecked diabetes can also lead to limb amputation.
Blocked blood vessels can also lead to a high risk of strokes and heart attacks, cause blindness, and ultimately lead to kidney failure and/or the need for a kidney transplant.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. That’s why catching it early and getting treatment is so important.
Am I at risk and what are the symptoms?
With obesity and consumption of processed foods on the rise, medical professionals are seeing an increased number of cases of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in both children and teens.
You and your family could be at risk for developing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes if you:
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Have excess body fat
- Have high blood pressure and/or cholesterol
- Consume a diet high in red meat, processed foods, and refined sugars
- Are over age 65 Are inactive
- Have had gestational diabetes
If you find you meet some of the risk factors, you may not have any visible symptoms of prediabetes. However, some signs of the condition can include:
- Blurred vision
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
It’s easy to dismiss symptoms like the ones above, missing the signs something gone awry. That’s why it’s so important to get screened.
Can I get screened for prediabetes?
Most certainly —a nd if you’re at risk or exhibit any symptoms of prediabetes, you definitely should be screened. In fact, one in four adults living with diabetes didn't even know they were diabetic. Only 11 percent of prediabetic adults were aware they had the condition. A simple blood test can help determine if you’re prediabetic. Your doctor will likely perform what's called an A1C test, which measures your average blood glucose (blood sugar) level for the past few months. If that test isn't conclusive, your doctor could also order urine tests; additional blood sugar tests; a fasting blood sugar test; or an oral glucose tolerance test to help establish a diagnosis. These tests can quickly help you and your physician identify if there's a risk for diabetes, and if so, get you on track for treatment.
What does it mean if I find out I’m prediabetic?
If you receive a diagnosis for prediabetes, the good news is that you caught a health challenge before it has the chance to become a real problem. Together with your doctor, you’ll establish a treatment plan. This will involve some lifestyle changes, like adding physical activity to your daily routine, changing your diet, and possibly even short-term medication.
Healthy eating habits will be the single most significant contributing factor to getting prediabetes under control and helping your body regulate blood sugar on its own again.
What should I do to help prevent Type 2 diabetes?
One thing that can help is using these healthy shopping tips to help guide your grocery store trips:
- Skip the sugary drinks: Soft drinks and fruit juices can be traded for flavored seltzer water.
- Limit red meat intake: Save the steaks for special occasions and replace your meat intake with lean proteins like chicken breast, ground turkey, or even plant-based proteins like tofu and beans.
- Beef-up on the fresh fruits and vegetables: Fresh is best and frozen will work in a pinch.
- Shop the perimeter of the store: You’ll find the produce and butcher departments on the edges of the grocery store. All the refined sugars and processed foods are in the middle.
For many people with prediabetes, their symptoms subside entirely, and they can completely reverse the condition through diet and exercise.
The most important thing to remember about prediabetes is that you can’t do anything about it if you don’t know. If you want a simple place to begin, schedule an appointment to speak with your physician. You can also use urgent care or a walk-in clinic to get an exam and schedule testing if you think you might be at risk.
E. Napoletano is an award-winning journalist and the recipient of the 2019 Illinois Women’s Press Association first-place prize for her feature on the traumatic effects of family separation policies at the border.