How about we Talk About Type 2 Diabetes
It’s hard to say there’s “good news” about any disease diagnosis, but if there’s a silver lining with type 2 diabetes, it’s this: You are very much in control of your destiny. Type 2 diabetes can often be successfully managed through the actions you take in everyday life. A healthy diet and regular exercise, along with prescribed medications, can give you your life back. Here’s the deal with type 2 diabetes.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
If you know someone with diabetes, chances are they have type 2, which accounts for 90% to 95% of all diabetes cases in the United States. Other common types include type 1, an autoimmune disorder, and gestational diabetes, which only happens during pregnancy.
People with all types of diabetes have one thing in common: high amounts of sugar in the blood.
Here’s what happens if your body is working normally: After you eat, food from your meal is broken down into a sugar called glucose that serves as your entire body’s source of energy—the brain, heart, muscle cells, and everything else rely on glucose for fuel.
The glucose enters the bloodstream and in response, your pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that helps the glucose get out of your blood and into your cells so they can use it for energy.
But in type 2 diabetes, your body stops using the insulin it makes efficiently, requiring more and more insulin to help convert glucose into energy. Eventually, your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to keep up with the demand, and your blood sugar rises.
Type 2 diabetes is very treatable, but not curable. Some people are able to keep it in check with a healthy diet and regular exercise, but many need to take medication as well.
It’s important to be diagnosed early and correctly because, if left untreated, type 2 diabetes greatly increases your risk of heart disease and can lead to complications like vision loss, kidney issues, nerve pain, foot problems, and even amputations.
We’ve got the doctor-vetted scoop on the symptoms, causes and treatments for every type of diabetes
Who Gets Type 2 Diabetes?
Anyone of any age, weight, or race can get type 2 diabetes. That said, type 2 diabetes does run in families. It’s also more common in adults, in people who are overweight, and in black, Latino, and Asian communities.
An estimated 27 million to 28.5 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes. Additionally, more than 80 million people have prediabetes, meaning their blood sugar is elevated, but not high enough to be diabetes. Prediabetes greatly increases the chances a person will go on to develop type 2.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Doctors don’t know exactly why some people get type 2 diabetes and others don’t. But it’s clear that several things raise your odds of getting it:
- Ethnicity/race. Certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop type 2 than others, including African Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders and Hawaiians, Native Americans and Native Alaskans.
- Family history and genetics. There is no single type 2 diabetes “gene” to test for, but if type 2 runs in your family, that means you are at higher risk of developing it, too.
- High Body Mass Index. Higher levels of body fat, especially the kind that gathers in the belly, is linked to insulin resistance and risk of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can also cause more weight gain, creating a frustrating cycle.
- Insulin resistance. Type 2 often starts with insulin resistance—meaning that a person’s liver, muscles, and other cells start to respond more slowly or weakly to insulin than they used to. Several things can contribute to insulin resistance, including certain medications, polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing’s disease, and aging.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity boosts your body’s ability to use insulin efficiently, lowering the risk of high blood sugar. Being sedentary makes your cells less sensitive to insulin, which leads to insulin resistance and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you or a loved one has type 2 diabetes, but it does mean you should get checked out. Possible indications of type 2 diabetes include:
- Extreme thirst: When there’s too much sugar in the bloodstream, your body pulls water from surrounding tissues to try and dilute it. That makes you dehydrated and thirsty. Some people with diabetes feel like no matter how much they drink, they can’t quench their thirst.
- Excessive pee: In an effort to filter out the high sugar content in your blood, your kidneys kick into gear. They dump sugar from your blood into your urine, creating more pee. In more advanced stages of the disease, damaged nerves around the bladder may cause some people to feel the urge to pee frequently, even if little or nothing comes out. You also have a higher risk of urinary tract infections. Children may suddenly start to have accidents at night or during the day, even though they’ve been potty trained for years.
- The munchies: If you’re hungry all the time, even after a good meal, it could be a sign that your muscles and other tissues in your body aren’t getting the energy—a.k.a. glucose—they need from the food you’re eating, because it’s hung up in your bloodstream. Your muscles signal to your brain that they’re starving, making you feel hungry and continuing the cycle.
- Fatigue: Type 2 diabetes can make you feel tired and weak because your brain, muscles, and other body systems aren’t getting the energy they need to work properly. Dehydration from frequent urination can make you tired, too. Listlessness and muscle weakness may also be a sign of a severe complication called ketoacidosis.