How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2020

How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease. It’s what happens when your body can’t make enough insulin or use it properly. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Too much sugar in the blood causes a lot of complications. People with diabetes are at high risk for nerve damage, kidney disease, skin infections, eye problems, and developing a serious case of COVID-19, should they become infected. All of these problems can be very painful and debilitating. And once you have diabetes, it doesn’t go away. You have to manage it for the rest of your life.

All of this sounds pretty bleak, but there is good news. The most common type of diabetes, type 2, can sometimes be prevented. The body sends up a warning flag called prediabetes. Those who are tested and find out they have prediabetes can take action to prevent the onset of irreversible diabetes.

The first step is to know your risk. The most significant risk factor is being overweight, especially if you carry more weight around your waist. Men with a waist measurement of 40 inches or more and women with a waist measurement of 35 or more are at greater risk of diabetes.

Age is also a risk factor. Because people tend to exercise less and gain weight as they age, those over 45 are at greatest risk. Pay attention to your family history, as well. If a parent or sibling has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to get it.

For a quick and easy screening test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, visit http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/pdf/prediabetestest.pdf.

If you find that you are at risk, ask your primary care provider to test for diabetes. The test your provider will most likely recommend is called a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. It’s a blood test that shows your average blood sugar level for the past 2 – 3 months. Your provider is looking for a number below 5.6 percent. Measurements 5.7 – 6.4 are an indication of prediabetes. Higher than 6.5 percent on two tests indicates that you have diabetes.

If your test indicates that you already have type 2 diabetes, ongoing visits with a diabetes educator and a very focused and committed approach to diet and exercise can help you manage the effects of the disease. Medications and other therapies are sometimes recommended too.

If you find that you have prediabetes, the most important thing you can do is learn more. Understanding how the disease works will help you make some important life changes. The CDC offers a proven-effective diabetes prevention program specifically designed for people with prediabetes. Local health and fitness professional Andrea Malinowski is conducting a session starting in February. It’s free, but you must have a prediabetes diagnosis to join. Ask your primary care provider to connect you with the local diabetes educator for more information.

Paula Haytko, RN, CDE, is a certified diabetes educator at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

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