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The type 2 diabetes epidemic: How you can fight back

Man on bicycle - Fighting the diabetes epidemic
Exercise is a crucial element of managing diabetes.

A figure released by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimated the total cost of diagnosed diabetes in America to be $327 billion in 2017. This is up from $245 billion in 2012. About 72% came from direct medical costs. The remainder resulted from lost productivity.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “537 million adults have diabetes worldwide. In the United States alone, 37.3 million people have diabetes, 11.3% of the population.” Diabetes comes in two forms: Type 1 and type 2.

“Type 2 diabetes is absolutely an epidemic,” said Nicole Schneider, Marshfield Clinic Health System endocrinology nurse practitioner. “There are so many medical problems that come along with diabetes. And it’s expensive to treat.”

Aside from the impact on our economy and health care system, diabetes can have a devastating effect on those who suffer from it. Complications can include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye problems, poor circulation and limb amputations.

Type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer produces insulin. Insulin allows the body’s cells to use glucose as energy. Type 1 usually begins in childhood or early adulthood. It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys insulin-making cells. It is the most common chronic disease in childhood.

“More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, about 1 in 10. Approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 ,” Schneider said. “With type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin, but does not use it effectively due to insulin resistance. This leaves extra glucose in the bloodstream that can cause damage to body organs and systems over time.” There are links to inactivity, ageing, and obesity. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over 45. However, more children, teens and young adults are also developing it.

Why people get diabetes

Genetics and environmental factors play a role in developing type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle factors play a much larger role in developing type 2.

Several risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being over age 45, obesity, ethnicity, family history of diabetes and an inactive lifestyle.

Type 2 Diabetes treatment

People with type 1 diabetes take insulin through injection or an insulin pump. No lifestyle changes can cure type 1. However, proper diet and exercise are important to help manage glycemic control. Type 2 diabetes also can’t be cured. But losing weight, eating well and exercising can help manage the disease. If diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage the blood glucose levels, medications or insulin therapy may be needed.

Eating a low calorie, low carbohydrate diet helps to control the blood glucose levels. Exercise is like a “free insulin.” It allows the glucose to get into the muscle cells. It needs to go there for energy instead of sitting in the blood where it can damage organs. Schneider suggests exercising 30 minutes daily, six days per week and working up to one hour, six days a week.

“I can help patients manage their diabetes,” Schneider said. “It depends where the patient is on their journey, as to which medication or lifestyle change is needed. I give them the tools to manage their blood glucose at home, since this is a self-managed disease. It affects the whole body and requires a support team of family members and friends to make the patient successful.”

Pay attention to these symptoms

Warning signs for both types of diabetes include strong thirst, frequent urination, nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, blurry vision and possible weight loss.

“The most common way to confirm diabetes is to test fasting blood sugar,” Schneider said. “A fasting blood glucose of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal, 100-125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes. 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.”

If you’re concerned about your risk for diabetes, talk to your primary care provider.

3 responses to “The type 2 diabetes epidemic: How you can fight back”

  1. Luke Coutinho

    Recognizing symptoms and monitoring blood sugar levels is essential for effective diabetes management. Type 2 diabetes is an alarming epidemic associated with various health complications.

  2. Deb

    Thank you, Dr. Ray for stating "type 2 diabetes can be cured…" For many years, people were told that there was no cure & that one would have type 2 diabetes forever. It is amazing what a low carb diet can do & of course exercise!

  3. Mark Thomas

    Difficult to read the article when the "subscribe" pop up is in the way

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