A Closer Look at Type 2 Diabetes

Food Network host Paula Deen, known for her high-calorie Southern comfort food, confirmed last week that she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years ago. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting nearly 17 million Americans. Seven million people have diabetes and don’t know it, and 79 million people are considered pre-diabetic, meaning their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Kathy Levin, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Memorial Medical Center’s Food & Nutrition Services team, sheds some light on the nature of this prevalent condition.

What happens in the body for those who have Type 2 diabetes?

In Type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don’t use the insulin correctly or both. When we eat food, our bodies break down the food into glucose. And, insulin acts like a key that unlocks the door so that glucose can be used by our cells for energy.

What increases our risk for diabetes?

Family history of diabetes, age over 45, being overweight, a lack of exercise, history of gestational diabetes, and certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives).

Are there choices we can make to help prevent developing diabetes?

Some things we can do to decrease the risk for Type 2 diabetes:

  • If you are overweight or have a BMI greater than 25, lose 5 percent to 7 percent of your current weight. So for example, if you weighed 200 pounds, aim for a 10- to 15-pound loss.
  • Exercise. Aim for 30 minutes, five to seven days a week.
  • Don’t skip meals. Aim for three meals and two to three snacks.
  • Practice portion control. Use the plate method (www.choosemyplate.gov/) to help with portion control and include a variety of foods.

By following the above recommendations, you may be able to prevent or significantly delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

What role does diet have in controlling Type 2 diabetes after a diagnosis?

When you have Type 2 diabetes, consistency is a key word. Focus on consistent meal times. Eat your meals about the same time each day and don’t skip meals. Skipping meals may cause you to eat too much later or have a low blood glucose. Eat about the same amount of food at meals, especially carbohydrate-containing foods. Carbohydrate fuels our bodies, but too much or too little will cause widely varying blood glucose levels. Limit “bad” fats like saturated and trans fats and include healthy fats such as monounsaturated or omega-3 fatty acids. People with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease, so limit meat to 6 ounces a day.

How else can I control my glucose levels?

Check your blood glucose levels as prescribed by your doctor. By checking your glucose at home, you can monitor how changes in diet and exercise are affecting your blood glucose. Live by the “90/10” rule where you follow the abovementioned goals 90-percent of the time. This gives you some flexibility for one to two meals a week. By being consistent, you can control your blood glucose instead of it controlling you.

The Role of Primary Care Physicians

Having a good relationship with your physician can help ensure you have the tools you need to know whether you have risk factors for diabetes. Primary care physicians play a key role in prevention, diagnosis and management of chronic health conditions. Dr. John Lee, a family medicine physician at South Sixth Medical Associates, said diabetes is something that needs to be treated early. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, staying in contact with your primary care physician is important. Annual visits are crucial, and Lee suggests diabetics do the following:

  • Check cholesterol once per year and blood pressure frequently.
  • Have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist once a year for retinopathy.
  • Check kidney function annually.
  • Check your feet daily; if you notice any ulcers or wounds, notify your doctor right away.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly; proper diet and exercise are the two biggest preventers of diabetes.

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