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Diabetes Information

Recognizing and Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetics' bodies have difficulty turning food into energy.  In healthy people, food is broken down after a meal into a sugar called glucose.  Cells use a hormone called insulin (made by the pancreas) to process that glucose into energy.  However, the cells of people with diabetes - both Type 1 and Type 2 - are insulin-resistant, meaning that they don't process the glucose efficiently or use the insulin properly. The pancreas loses its ability to keep up with the demand for insulin, and the level of blood glucose rises; eventually, high glucose levels can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, blindness, gum infections, and other dangerous conditions. 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease.  It differs from Type 1 diabetes in that Type 2 sufferers do not need to take insulin injections.  It was formerly referred to as "adult-onset" diabetes, although Type 2 can strike at any age.  It doesn't always have obvious symptoms of type 2 diabetes, either: in many cases, it goes completely undetected, or the symptoms are mild enough to be ignored, or passed off as something else.  According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), over six million people are living with Type 2 diabetes and don't know it.  They only find out when they experience complications that arise from the disease, and by then, the damage is done.  So what are the telltale symptoms of Type 2 diabetes?

  • Sores that won't heal
  • Increased hunger and thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Blurry vision
  • There are also several risk factors to consider.  You are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are 45 or over
  • Are overweight
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a parent or sibling who is diabetic
  • Exercise fewer than three times a week
  • Are an Alaska Native, American Indian, African American, Hispanic/Latino American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Have abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or have had gestational diabetes (both conditions apply to women only)
  • The more items on the list that apply to you, the higher your risk, so if you fall under any of these categories, it's important to get tested for Type 2 diabetes.  Early detection can help prevent any damage that may occur from the disease.  The most common diagnostic screening for Type 2 diabetes is the fasting plasma glucose test, in which a blood sample is taken to assess blood sugar levels.  You�ll be asked to fast for a little while before the test, because food and drinks can affect these levels.

    Even if you're at high risk for Type 2 diabetes, there are things you can do to decrease it.  Getting regular, moderate exercise and making smart food choices will go a long way toward reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight, strengthening your heart, and lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  A dietician can help you set attainable goals and come up with a healthy meal plan you can live with, and a doctor can determine if you need medication to control blood pressure and/or cholesterol.

    Don't be among the estimated millions who let their Type 2 diabetes go untreated.  You owe it to yourself - and your health - to assess your risk and find out!    

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