Type 2 diabetes is a life-long disease that affects the way your body handles glucose, a kind of sugar, in your blood.
There are about 27 million people in the U.S. with it. Another 86 million have prediabetes: Their blood glucose is not normal, but not high enough to be diabetes yet.
Certified Diabetes Educator Val Rezende of Northside Hospital Cherokee, who is also a registered dietician, licensed dietician and holds a master’s degree in science, sat down with Cherokee Life to answer questions about ways to cope with the disease.
1. What is Diabetes?
Diabetes means your blood glucose level, often called blood sugar, is too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat and is also made by the liver and muscles. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into the cells to be used as energy. Diabetes can happen when your body does not make enough insulin, or if the insulin does not work the way it should.
2. What is type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs in 90-95 percent of all people with diabetes and can be developed at any age – even in childhood. This form of diabetes starts with insulin resistance, meaning the cells are resistant to the effects of the insulin. It is a progressive chronic disease, which means it changes over time. It is important to follow up with your health care provider on a regular basis to keep diabetes well controlled.
3. Am I at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
• Being older than 45 years
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Family history of diabetes
• History of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome
• History of heart disease or high cholesterol/triglycerides levels
• Race/Ethnicity (African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans,
Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
are at higher risk)
4. What are the common signs of type 2 diabetes?
You may have one or more of these signs before you find out you have diabetes but some people have no signs at all. A blood test to check your glucose levels is the only way to diagnose type 2 diabetes.
• Being very thirsty and hungry
• Frequent urination
• Losing weight without trying
• Having blurry vision
• Sores that do not heal or frequent infections
• Tingling or numbness in your feet
• Dry and itchy skin
5. Why do you need to take care of your type 2 diabetes?
After many years, diabetes can lead to serious problems with your eyes, kidneys, nerves, gum and teeth. The most serious health problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. People with diabetes are more than twice as likely as people without diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke.
6. How is type 2 diabetes treated?
Keeping diabetes well controlled is a balancing act. You need to balance food, exercise, medication and stress. It is very important to check your blood sugar levels frequently to know how well you are managing your diabetes.
7. What diet is recommended for type 2 diabetes?
Having diabetes does not mean you have to follow a strict diet. Eating healthier foods in the right amounts is one of the most important ways to manage your diabetes. The timing of your meals is also important, learning how to plan your meals and snacks can improve your blood sugar control. A Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator can get you started with your meal planning. Here are some basic dietary guidelines:
• Do not skip meals
• Eat meals and snacks at regular times every day
• Eat a variety of foods
• Chose whole grains and high fiber breads
• Watch portion sizes
• Avoid sweet beverages
8. How much exercise is recommended for people with type 2 diabetes?
The American Diabetes Association recommends exercising for at least 150 minutes every week. Even a small increase in physical activity can provide a big benefit to your diabetes management. Be physically active in the way that is right for your fitness level, fits your schedule and is enjoyable.
9. How does stress affect my type 2 diabetes control?
Stress can affect your diabetes control by raising your blood sugar. Stress can be caused by your own feelings or situations going around you. Developing good stress management skills is important for blood sugar control. Here are some activities that can help you cope with stress:
• Meditation, yoga and relaxation exercises
• Warm tea
• Talking to a supportive person
10. Where can I locate a Diabetes Education Center?
Northside Hospital has a comprehensive Outpatient Diabetes Education Program that is designed to help you learn more about diabetes and adapt a self-care plan to your lifestyle. Classes are available in all Northside Campus: Atlanta, Forsyth, Alpharetta and Cherokee. The program is recognized by the American Diabetes Association and services are often covered by insurance.
Val Rezende, MS,RD,LD,CDE
Certified Diabetes Educator
Northside Hospital Cherokee