By Dr. Donna Barton, Associate Professor, Public Health, American Public University and Hellen Mwebi, Graduate Student, American Public University
According to the American Diabetes Association, over 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes, a chronic condition that was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2015. According to the Mayo Clinic, Type 2 diabetes is particularly common in adults, while Type 1 diabetes often appears during childhood or adolescence.
In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin or use it well. Aerobic activity and losing excess weight can improve your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Some 84 million or more Americans are currently diagnosed as prediabetic. According to Activebeat’s Jeff Hayward, “prediabetes” is the designation for when fasting blood glucose levels are elevated, but not yet at the point where diabetes can be diagnosed.
Hayward’s six precursors of prediabetes are:
- Darkened skin
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of sleep
- Blurred vision
- Increased thirst
- Slow-healing wounds
Insulin is vital in maintaining normal glucose levels. Type II diabetes occurs when the body either becomes resistant to insulin or simply does not produce enough insulin, while in Type 1, the pancreas produces little to no insulin. The long-term effects of diabetes may damage various organs, such as the eyes, kidneys and heart, and blood vessels.
Five Common Risk Factors for Diabetes
A good start to understanding diabetes is to know the five most common risk factors:
- Elevated triglyceride levels in the blood (High ≥ 200 mg/deciliter and normal < 150 mg/dL)
- Large waist size
- Low HDL cholesterol (< 40 mg/dL)
- Fasting glucose levels beyond the normal range (70 – 99 mg/dL)
- Hypertension (above 120/80 mm Hg)
When people have at least three of these risk factors, they are said to have metabolic syndrome.
Type 2 diabetes often goes undetected because there are no immediate symptoms. Patients often learn that they have Type 2 diabetes only when their physician detects a higher than normal blood glucose (sugar) level (A1C) during a routine physical exam. Often, initial treatment may consist of medications to control A1C levels or patients testing their A1C levels daily with a special meter, test strips and a drop of blood.
In addition, not all Type 2 diabetes cases are the same. However, there are some common ways to bring your health back to within a medically normal range. These methods include physical activity, diet and nutrition, medical attention, and weight control.
Engage in Some Form of Daily Physical Activity
Everyone should exercise every day for a minimum of 30 minutes. That could be walking, jogging, doing yoga or another physical exercise you are most comfortable with.
Go at your own pace. Exercising will help your body absorb more glucose from your bloodstream and reduces stress.
Your heart rate will improve along with your stamina. Try taking a quick stroll in your neighborhood or walking around your house. In inclement weather, use a treadmill or walk at your local mall. For extra motivation, walk with a group of friends.
Watch Your Diet and Nutritional Intake
Your diet is another activity that you can control. Work with your physician, clinician or healthcare advisor to create a diet that meets your individual needs. You must learn to:
- Control portion sizes
- Prepare foods properly
- Educate yourself on how your body will break down food
- Stick to your diet and watch your body respond
Choose fresh produce or other fresh foods as often as possible. You might even consider a vegetarian or vegan diet to rid yourself of gluten, wheat and grains that break down quickly into sugar in your body.
Also, to help control your Type 2 diabetes, eat foods that are rich in protein, such as white meats or fish, fiber, and low glycemic foods. A good, healthy diet can reduce your chances of developing other chronic diseases such as obesity and asthma, among others that have been linked to diabetes.
Seek Medical Attention to Control Your Diabetes
Always consult a physician to learn about your needs, along with any medication(s) you need to maintain good health. There may be tools, skills or prescription medicines that can help you maintain or ward off the worst effects of diabetes. Also check out community-based diabetes groups in your area for additional support.
Control Your Weight
Obesity can cause any number of chronic diseases to spiral out of control. Through proper diet and exercise, you can maintain a healthy weight, which in turn helps your heart stay fit.
Reducing stress and lowering weight over time can prevent diabetes. Demographics such as race and age play a role in developing the disease. As one ages, a diet change is likely to occur. Why not get control of it before developing the disease?
About the Authors
Dr. Donna Barton is an associate professor of health sciences. She earned her doctoral degree in public health with a concentration on health education from Walden University. Other academic credentials include an executive graduate certificate in human resources from Strayer University, a master of public health degree in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics from the University of Georgia. Donna’s research interests focus on health and wellness, chronic diseases affecting women’s health and cardiovascular disease.
Hellen Mwebi is a graduate student in Health Sciences at American Public University. Her. interests are chronic disease and global health.