Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be scary. In reality, however, type 2 diabetes affects up to 37 million¹ adults in America. The good news is that, in many cases, type 2 diabetes can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle.
While it's possible to live a long, happy life with type 2 diabetes, it's worth making the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent it from occurring in the first place. In addition to high blood sugar levels, this condition can impact other systems in your body, including your eyes, kidney, liver, and cardiovascular system.
Here's what you should know about type 2 diabetes and how to lower your chances of developing it.
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Type 2 diabetes is a condition that occurs when the amount of glucose, generally known as sugar, in your blood is too high. The sugar found in your blood comes from the foods that you eat and provides your body with energy.
Your pancreas creates a hormone called insulin that helps the sugar to enter the cells in your body, where it is turned into energy. When you develop type 2 diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use the available insulin as it should, leaving glucose to accumulate in the bloodstream.
It is possible for type 2 diabetes to affect individuals differently. While one person may notice unusual signs prior to being diagnosed with the condition, another person may not experience any symptoms at all.
Common signs of type 2 diabetes include:
Very dry skin and injuries that take too long to heal
Sores that heal slowly
Being prone to more infections than normal
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as early as possible is the best way to treat and manage your condition before it leads to more serious health concerns.
While type 2 diabetes can happen to anyone, regardless of age or medical history, there are certain factors that could make you more likely to develop the disease.
Being overweight or obese (particularly for individuals with abdominal obesity)
Being physically inactive
Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
Being of African, Asian, Native American, or Hispanic descent
Being over the age of 45
Having high levels of triglycerides
Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. It is estimated to affect up to 10 percent of pregnant women and typically resolves on its own after the baby is born.
Gestational diabetes rarely presents any signs or symptoms, which is why your doctor will perform a routine blood test to check for the condition between your 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years after childbirth for the mother. Gestational diabetes also increases the likelihood that the child will develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
For this reason, it is important to take the necessary steps to live a healthy lifestyle after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This includes:
Get tested for type 2 diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after giving birth to your baby and continuing to monitor your blood sugar levels by getting checked for type 2 diabetes every three years.
Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.
Breastfeeding your baby, if possible.
Talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not you should take medications, such as metformin, to prevent Type 2 diabetes from developing.
Prediabetes happens when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. It's estimated that up to 1 in 3 people² (or over 96 million adults in America) have prediabetes, while 80% of them don't even know it.
Prediabetes puts you at risk of developing a number of other serious health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Like type 2 diabetes, prediabetes can be diagnosed and monitored with a simple blood test that measures your blood sugar levels.
If you're diagnosed with prediabetes, you have the opportunity to make lifestyle changes that will not only benefit your overall health but also lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Here are some proactive steps to take to prevent your prediabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes:
If you're overweight, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight.
Incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine, such as 150 minutes a week (or half an hour a day) of activity.
Eating a well-balanced diet and/or working with a dietician to create healthy meal plans.
Managing your stress so that you're more likely to stick with your healthy diet and exercise routines.
Joining a support group for people with prediabetes or diabetes.
There are other healthy tips to implement as ways to prevent type 2 diabetes. These include:
Eat a well-balanced diet: Limiting your consumption of all refined carbs, sugary drinks, and processed meats can help lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Instead, strive to eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and lean proteins while drinking plenty of water.
Stop smoking: People who smoke have a 30-40% higher risk³ of developing type 2 diabetes than those who don't. With this in mind, it's important to quit smoking as soon as possible to prevent this condition from occurring.
Drink alcohol in moderation: Limit alcohol drinking to certain occasions. If drinking regularly, do not exceed the CDC recommendations (one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men). Following this recommendation may lower your chances of developing diabetes, as studies⁴ have reported that heavy alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk as a result of abnormal glucose regulation in the body.
While type 2 diabetes may not be avoidable for some people, there are proactive lifestyle changes that most individuals can make to lower their chances of developing this serious disease.
Maintaining a healthy weight, living an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, avoiding cigarettes, and drinking alcohol in moderation can all help you live a healthier life, lessen the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, and even prevent other health problems from occurring, such as heart disease.
If you experience any of the symptoms or have any of the risk factors of type 2 diabetes, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to have a blood sugar test performed. Getting a diabetes diagnosis early is the best way to manage your condition and prevent it from leading to more serious complications.
Type 2 diabetes | Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Prevalence of prediabetes among adults | Center for Disease Control and Prevention