Type 2 Diabetes
When you are first told you have Type II diabetes, it can be a scary time. You may not be sure how it happened or what you’re supposed to do to make it better. Can you reverse it? Will you get sick? There are so many questions to consider that you may not even know which to ask first.
Your doctor can help you navigate the first days after diagnosis, but you’re also better off being an informed patient. The more you know about your own medical condition, the more you can ask the right questions, make good decisions, and take control of your health.
The better managed your condition is, the less likely it is that you will have damage to your organs and tissues from it. Additionally, the more you know about Type II diabetes and how to manage it, the more you can do the right things and keep yourself as healthy as possible for as long as possible. That can give you some peace of mind, and it’s also the best way to protect your body. While Type II diabetes can get harder to control over time, getting a good start on it and continuing to manage it carefully can reduce your risk and help you adjust if you need to make changes as you age.
What is Blood Sugar, and Why Does It Matter?
Blood sugar, or blood glucose, is mostly regulated in the blood stream by a hormone called insulin. Your body manufactures insulin in the pancreas using special cells called beta cells. When insulin is working correctly it takes the sugar you consume and gets it into your muscles, liver, and fat cells, where your body can either use the sugar right away to keep you moving or store the energy in sugar for later use. If for any reason there isn’t enough insulin to handle the sugar effectively, it will be released into the blood stream instead. That is a serious problem for both Type I and Type II diabetics.
Type I diabetes, a condition that normally arises in childhood, is all about insulin production. But Type II diabetes can have other factors, as well. Sometimes in Type II diabetes there is a weak reception of insulin, even when it’s produced in sufficient amounts. In other words, the insulin is available, but the body isn’t sure what to do with it, and just as if there were a shortage of insulin, this problem results in rising blood sugar levels.
What’s the problem with high blood sugar levels? A high level of sugar in your blood is basically like slowly being poisoned. It can reduce the ability of the pancreas to make insulin, making your blood sugar rise even higher, and making blood sugar levels harder to control. Eventually high blood sugar levels can cause permanent damage to the pancreas, which overworks itself trying to make enough insulin even though the body isn’t using it correctly.
High blood sugar also leads to hardening of the arteries and other damage to blood vessels, and this can lead to issues with your kidneys, vision, and nerves, along with other organs and systems. Virtually anything in your body can be harmed by the blood vessel damage that comes with blood sugar levels that are consistently too high.
What Are the Specific Causes and Complications of Type II Diabetes?
The main causes of Type II diabetes include being overweight, eating a diet that is heavy in sugar and simple carbs, not getting enough exercise, and genetics. There isn’t anything you can do about your genetics, of course, because you can’t change your genes, but there’s plenty you can do about the other causes. Some people eat good diets, stay in shape, and still develop diabetes, and that can be very frustrating for them. Others are overweight and don’t take care of themselves, but they don’t develop the condition. Regardless, doing what you can to reduce your risk is your best strategy, and can you can do this relatively easily.
For people with uncontrolled or poorly controlled Type II diabetes, there can be serious complications. These commonly include losing toes or feet to a lack of circulation, going blind, and having organ failure. Kidney damage is also common, and people with Type II diabetes are also at higher risk for strokes and heart attacks. Fortunately, however, the more you control your Type II diabetes, the lower your risk of complications will be. You may in fact be able to avoid all of the complications that can come with diabetes by keeping tight control of your blood sugar, being an informed patient, and making changes as needed.
What Are the Symptoms of Type II Diabetes?
Type II diabetes has a number of common symptoms that many people notice, and that many also fail to recognize as signs that they have a medical condition. These symptoms include:
- Excessive thirst or Hunger
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Blurred vision or other vision changes
- Frequent urination
- Slow wound healing
- Weight gain or loss
These are not the only symptoms that can appear when someone has Type II diabetes, and some people who develop the condition never have or notice these symptoms. Additionally, anyone who only has one or two symptoms might not realize that there’s any problem to check into. If you start seeing these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, you’ll want to check with your doctor to determine whether blood sugars are high or if there is another reason for the symptom. There are many benign issues that can cause some of the same symptoms as Type II diabetes, so working with your doctor to understand the real issue matters.
If you have your blood sugar tested at your yearly appointment, you may catch a problem before any symptoms develop. But not everyone has blood work done every year, and not everyone goes to the doctor on a regular basis. With that in mind, you’ll want to keep your eyes open for any symptoms that are uncommon, or that develop and don’t resolve on their own. While having one or more of the listed symptoms doesn’t mean you have Type II diabetes, it could be an indicator of the condition. That makes it worth checking into, so you can keep yourself well and get control of your health as much as possible.
Does Diet Really Matter That Much?
When you have Type II diabetes, what you eat matters. Too much blood sugar is a serious condition. In most people, blood sugar (also sometimes called blood glucose) levels rise when sugar or complex carbs are consumed, and then fall again as the body processes what you’ve eaten. But if you are diabetic, your body doesn’t handle sugar the way it should. Your blood sugar will rise when you eat, but it won’t come back down the way it should. It will also often rise much more than it should. This contributes to the harm diabetes does to your body, so it needs to be avoided.
One of the ways to reduce blood sugar spikes and high sugar levels in general is to take medication. But you can also help control your Type II diabetes with your diet. The less sugar you eat, and the fewer simple carbs you have in your diet, the more easily you can keep your blood sugar under control. Some people, in fact, can stop taking any medication at all if they make enough lifestyle changes to keep their blood sugar at healthy levels. Whether this works for you is something only your doctor can determine, but a healthy diet will definitely make a difference in keeping your Type II diabetes in check.
What If You Are Overweight?
One of the biggest problems for people with Type II diabetes is that many of them are overweight or obese. That makes it much harder for their bodies to process food correctly, which can raise blood sugar levels and keep those levels elevated. With that in mind, losing weight can bring with it a number of serious health benefits, as long as that weight loss is done safely. Consider losing weight to improve your blood sugar so you can be healthier for a longer period of time. Getting to a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), and especially getting into the lower range of healthy, may reduce or eliminate your need for medication to control your Type II diabetes.
Will Exercise Help With Blood Sugar Control?
Like a healthy diet and weight loss, exercise is a good way to start reducing your blood sugar levels. Exercise helps your body process the food you’re giving it, and the more easily your body processes food the more easily it can keep your blood sugar at healthy levels and reduce spikes. It can be difficult to find time for exercise, and difficult to get started if you’re not used to it, but it is also very worth it in the long run. Talk with your doctor about what kind of exercise would be right for you, and how to do it safely, so you can reduce your blood sugar levels and improve your health, even with Type II diabetes.
How Can You Control Your Risk Factors?
You can control your risk factors by staying in a healthy BMI range, getting exercise, and eating a diet that is low in sugar and simple carbohydrates. You can also check your blood sugar levels at home, and have your doctor check them at your yearly physicals. If your numbers start to rise, taking action to reduce them right away can also help you avoid diabetes. A lot of people are pre-diabetic, and if they take care of their health at that point and start reducing their risk factors, they may never develop Type II diabetes at all. You can be more likely to be one of the people who avoids diabetes by controlling your risk factors.
Type II diabetes is a complex disease, and can seem at first like a bewildering diagnosis. But with your doctor’s help and some time to process the information you receive, you can become an informed patient. With knowledge comes power, and the more you learn about your condition, the more you will be able to manage it, and the less of an impact it will have on your quality of life.
Type I diabetes, a condition that normally arises in childhood
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