Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body has trouble regulating blood sugar. Under normal circumstances, our bodies produce a hormone called insulin. Insulin – produced by the pancreas – acts like a “key” that opens up a “door” to our body’s cells to allow the glucose to enter and be burned for fuel. However, this process can become dysfunctional. Sometimes the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin or sometimes our body’s cells become unresponsive to insulin. Either way, the glucose stays in our bloodstream, instead of being used for fuel. The initial stages of this process are referred to as “insulin resistance”, where cells become insensitive to insulin but our blood sugar levels tend to remain fairly normal, and “pre diabetes”, where blood sugar levels begin to elevate above the normal clinical range. Eventually, if left unchecked, this process will develop into full blown type 2 diabetes. This is marked by a fasting blood glucose level of 126 mg/dl or higher or an A1C of greater than 6.5%.
Risk factors for diabetes include carrying excess body weight, being physically inactive, having a family history of diabetes, and aging. Complications of this disease include damage to our cardiovascular and neurological systems, as well as to our eyes and kidneys. Diabetes is a serious condition that requires medical intervention. However, at whatever stage of this disease is present, there is a way to manage it.
From a nutritional standpoint, much can be accomplished with diet and exercise. A knowledgable dietitian can be your very best resource for managing diabetes in this manner. However, in order to be effective, the lifestyle changes that are recommended need to become and remain permanent. This can be a frustration to some people, as changing habits can be a challenging process. Yet, there is a tremendous benefit to persevering: these lifestyle changes alone often times can significantly slow or even stop the progression of this disease. Nonetheless, if careful and consistent lifestyle modification does not fully control the symptoms, doctors can prescribe medications that help our bodies regulate blood sugar more correctly.
The more quickly and diligently one addresses diabetes, the more likely one will have positive outcomes. Even a modest amount of weight loss and a moderate amount of daily exercise can start to make a difference. This can be an encouragement for patients to press on to make even greater progress. It is never too late to start making those changes and working toward regaining health, vitality, and quality of life.
*Type 1 diabetes is a related condition, yet with some distinct differences, to be addressed at another time.