Raising Awareness of Type 2 Diabetes: The Importance of Prevention
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of diabetes, affecting the body’s ability to move sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells to be used as energy.
Being proactive about healthy lifestyle changes is one of the best ways to support your metabolic health and glucose homeostasis.
Fatty15 provides direct support to the receptors throughout the body that regulate everyday processes like balancing glucose.
Diabetes is an epidemic affecting 37 million Americans, some of whom are living undiagnosed. While there are three different types of diabetes, the most prevalent form is type 2 diabetes.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disorder that is most commonly diagnosed in childhood, type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed in adulthood and is more closely related to certain lifestyle choices. That said, the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents is rapidly increasing, making it more critical than ever.
Together, we’ll discuss the implications of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and determine who is at risk of developing this disease. We’ll also explain the risks of living with type 2 diabetes and how simple lifestyle changes can help you prevent it.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
All forms of diabetes affect how the body regulates blood sugar levels. Of the people with diabetes, 95 percent have type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes is a two-fold problem.
1. Insufficient insulin production. When we eat food, it breaks down into glucose in the blood. The breakdown of food into glucose triggers the pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that attaches to glucose and delivers it to cells in the body that require glucose for energy.
In the body of a type 2 diabetic, the cells in the pancreas are no longer able to produce enough insulin to keep up with the glucose level in the blood.
2. Insulin resistance. The second problem affects the cells that need glucose to perform cellular functions. Type 2 diabetes affects insulin’s ability to move glucose into cells, meaning both that the cells aren’t getting the energy they need, and there’s excess sugar in the bloodstream.
These two factors result in high blood sugar levels that can pose threats to the whole body. Unregulated, high blood sugar can lead to hyperglycemia, which could eventually lead to diabetic coma.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
It isn’t clear why the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels or why the cells that need glucose become resistant and unable to take in the glucose they need. However, there is a link between obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, and a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Complications of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes increases your risk of developing other negative health conditions. People with unmanaged type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, high blood pressure, and certain eye conditions.
The longer type 2 diabetes goes unmanaged, the more likely you are to develop these conditions, which can seriously impact your overall health and wellness.
Heart and Blood Vessel Damage
Type 2 diabetes that is left untreated can cause damage to your heart and to the blood vessels that carry blood to and from your heart. With this damage comes an increased risk of developing blood vessel and heart-related diseases, like atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that involves the buildup of plaques inside the blood vessels which can restrict blood flow.
The kidneys are made up of millions of filters called nephrons. In a person with unregulated type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar levels can damage the nephrons in the kidneys, causing them to work improperly. The blood vessels in the kidneys may also be damaged, resulting in complications with the kidneys and possible kidney disease.
Problems With Vision
Long-term type 2 diabetes can cause a person to experience vision problems. Having type 2 diabetes places you at a higher risk of developing eye-related diseases like glaucoma and cataracts. Because type 2 diabetes has a direct impact on your blood vessels, damage to the blood vessels in the eyes is possible, which could eventually lead to vision loss.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor has probably already talked to you about the possibility of nerve damage. Nerve damage is common in people with type 2 diabetes. Over time, unregulated blood sugar levels can destroy smaller nerves, leaving you with tingling, numbness, and pain, especially in the extremities and in the fingers and toes.
Long term, nerve damage can affect major systems in the body. Nerves in the digestive tract can cause gastrointestinal issues. Nerve damage in men can sometimes lead to erectile dysfunction.
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects many people suffering with type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder that causes you to start and stop breathing while you are sleeping. Obesity may be a contributing factor to the development of sleep apnea. Because an underlying cause of type 2 diabetes is usually unhealthy weight, this makes people with type 2 diabetes more likely to develop this condition.
Research shows a strong correlation between cognitive decline and high blood sugar levels. In studies, people with high blood sugar levels, like those associated with type 2 diabetes, had a much higher increase in beta-amyloid protein, one of the markers of Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, people with higher A1C levels had a smaller hippocampus, the portion of the brain that controls learning and memory. Studies also revealed that in patients with high blood sugar, the cells of the brain were insulin resistant, meaning that they were not able to properly use glucose to fuel brain activity.
Skin sensitivity is common among type 2 diabetics. There is a higher risk of developing skin infections when you have type 2 diabetes that is unregulated. In addition, it may be harder for your skin to heal from cuts and scrapes.
Who Is At Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?
Because type 2 diabetes may not have noticeable symptoms in its early stages, it’s vital to assess whether or not you are at risk. The American Diabetes Association has a handy risk assessment tool you can use to determine your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Obesity, genetics, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes are all risk factors that increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
People who are obese have a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Having excess weight around the midsection is particularly dangerous. There is a link between this adipose tissue and decreased insulin sensitivity in muscle, fat, and liver cells. Spikes in blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes often follows.
A sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Less activity means your cells don’t require as much glucose. Over time, inactivity can lead to insulin resistance in your cells.
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and goes away once the pregnancy has ended. If you’ve had gestational diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that develops over time. Many people live with prediabetes for years before their blood glucose levels rise to a diabetic level. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels elevate, and the chances of becoming insulin resistant increase.
Prediabetes affects all sects of the population, but adults over 45 who are obese and inactive are at higher risk.
Anyone can develop type 2 diabetes, but you’re more likely to develop it if you have immediate relatives who have had it.
Even so, having relatives who have it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to develop the disease yourself. By living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, you can prevent type 2 diabetes.
How To Support Your Metabolic Health
Prevention of type 2 diabetes is possible, and just a few simple lifestyle changes can keep your blood glucose levels healthy and balanced.
A blood test is the only way to determine whether or not you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. An A1C test is a fasting glucose test that determines your blood sugar level over the previous three months. Getting a yearly complete metabolic blood panel can tell you much about your health and help you monitor how well you manage blood sugar.
In addition, early detection of type 2 diabetes is key to ensuring proper management and experiencing fewer overall diabetes-related symptoms.
A balanced diet is good for everyone. Diets high in refined carbohydrates and sodium and low in fiber are associated with type 2 diabetes.
Aim to increase your intake of complex carbohydrates and fiber, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Lean protein and healthy fats will help round out your plate, keep you full, and help you avoid dramatic spikes and crashes in your blood sugar.
To keep type 2 diabetes at bay, make movement a regular part of your routine. Moderate exercise — activities that get your heart rate pumping but aren’t so intense that you can’t hold a conversation with someone — are essential for supporting a healthy lifestyle.
A good goal is to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. It may seem daunting, but you can break this up into small, 30-minute workouts that are easy to fit around meetings, extra-curricular activities, and busy schedules.
Keeping Healthy With Type 2 Diabetes
Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes may be higher than some, but there are steps you can take to ensure your blood sugar levels remain in healthy range longer. A balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and regular checkups will pay dividends to your health and keep your blood sugar well-regulated.
Looking for more helpful info on supporting your health and wellness? Explore the fatty15 blog here!
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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