Approximately 26 million people in the United States are living with type 2 diabetes, a progressive disease that causes the pancreas to produce an inadequate supply of insulin, which negatively affects blood sugar levels.
Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can cause damage to the heart, eyes, feet, teeth, gums, nervous system, blood vessels, and kidneys. Symptoms may include increased thirst, sudden weight loss, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, and genital area itching. Thankfully, there are several treatments that have been shown to be effective for type 2 diabetes.
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Scientific studies have established a definite link between obesity and type 2 diabetes. Over the past 50 years, a dramatic increase in obesity rates has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Much of the increase in obesity rates can be attributed to a worldwide change in caloric intake. The same can be said of the United States with more than a third of its adults obese. Although all obese individuals do not develop type 2 diabetes, most patients with type 2 diabetes are obese.
Losing weight can be an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes because it can lower a person’s blood sugar level. Just losing five to 10 percent of a person’s body weight can make a difference. However, losing seven percent or more and keeping it off seems to be the ideal prescription for producing positive change. This means that a person weighing 200 pounds, which is roughly the average weight of U.S. residents, would have to lose 14 pounds and keep it off to improve their blood sugar levels. Although it may be easier to say than it is to do, one of the best ways to accomplish the desired weight loss is to eat a healthier diet.
In addition to losing weight, a healthy diet will also help to stabilize a person’s blood sugar levels. While there is no standardized diet for people with type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet generally consists of one that has fewer calories and less refined carbohydrates. This means that fruits, vegetables, and foods with high fiber content are good. However, sugar and foods containing saturated fats should be avoided.
Anyone needing help crafting a diet to fit their particular needs, food preferences, and lifestyle may want to consult with a registered dietitian. In addition to putting together a meal plan, a registered dietitian should be able to provide instructions on how to monitor carbohydrate intake and determine the correct amount of carbohydrates required to keep blood sugar levels more stable.
In general, physical activity and aerobic exercise are good for everyone. This is especially true for people who have type 2 diabetes. Experts recommend at least five or more minutes of exercise per day over a three- to five-day period as long as the total for the week equals 150 minutes or more. The intensity of the exercise should be moderate to vigorous and no more than two days in a row should be skipped.
Exercises known to be good for type 2 diabetes include walking, dancing, swimming, biking, weightlifting, and yoga. Most any of these will help to lower blood sugar levels. However, it is important to choose enjoyable activities so that they can become part of a daily routine. Varying the type of exercise also offers more benefits than repeating the same exercise over and over. Also, it is important to reduce the amount of time consumed by inactive activities, such as watching TV.
To be on the safe side, a person should check with their doctor before beginning an exercise routine. It is also helpful to check blood sugar levels before beginning strenuous activities. If diabetes medications are being taken, it might be necessary to eat a snack before exercising to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping excessively.
Even when a person watches what they eat and exercises on a regular basis, diabetes medications may be necessary to control blood sugar levels. In the past, type 2 diabetes medications were used to control insulin levels. However, some of the newer type 2 medications, known as SGLT2 inhibitors, have nothing to do with insulin. Rather, they function to prevent the kidneys from sequestering glucose and allow it to be excreted through a person’s urine.
In addition to controlling blood sugar, these drugs may also help a person lose weight because of the drug’s ability to reduce glucose, which also reduces calories. Many people report a weight loss of five to 10 pounds in less than a year. Additionally, these drugs may lower a person’s blood pressure.
However, some women using these drugs develop yeast infections and some uncircumcised men develop foreskin infections. These drugs are also not recommended for people taking diuretics or elderly people with kidney diseases.
Another con of SGLT2 inhibitors is that they can produce high levels of blood acids, a condition known as ketoacidosis. If this happens, hospitalization may be required.
Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels
Regardless of the various treatment plans being used, blood sugar levels should be checked on a regular basis. This is the only way to know for sure that the treatment plans are working and that sugar levels are within the target range. For anyone on insulin, it may be necessary to check blood sugar multiple times per day.
If there is any doubt about how often this procedure should be performed, a doctor should be consulted.
Managing type 2 diabetes may require a person to change their lifestyle. It may be necessary to eat a healthier diet, exercise more often, and lose some weight. However, if these changes are not sufficient to control the disease, it may be necessary to begin a medication regimen under the supervision of a physician.