Cases of preventable Type 2 diabetes are on the rise in the U.S. So what can you do to to prevent the onset of diabetes? Ben Prohaska, a physician assistant with Renown Endocrinology, explains more.
Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, is on the rise for both U.S. adults and children. And although genetics play a role, you can take steps today to lower your risk of developing this life-altering condition. Ben Prohaska, a physician assistant with Renown Endocrinology, answered our questions about Type 2 diabetes and gave us some useful tips for prevention.
What effect does diabetes have on the body? And who’s most at risk?
First, it’s important to know the difference between the two most common types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes is the result of the body’s inability to make insulin, which is a hormone your body needs in order to be able to use sugar, or glucose, for energy. Type 1 is not preventable, and people who have it were born with it.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body makes the insulin hormone, but it might not make enough or work well enough for the body to use sugar for energy. This is the preventable kind that’s is usually developed later on in life.
Diabetes hurts the body’s ability to break down glucose, so rather than it being used for energy, glucose stays in the blood, which can cause problems. But with early detection and the help of your doctor, diabetes can be managed so that complications are avoided. Left unmanaged, however, diabetes can affect major organs and lead to heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, skin conditions and more.
Type 2 diabetes also results from risk factors that you can’t control, including your family history, race and age. But there are a few you can control, such as being overweight, having high blood pressure and high cholesterol and triglycerides.
So what are some of the most important things you can do to help prevent Type 2 diabetes?
Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes, so healthy eating and physical activity are the two most important things you can do to prevent it. And maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just help you to maintain a healthy weight, it also helps control other risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
It can be tough to get used to eating healthier and being more physically active, but if you set realistic and specific goals for yourself, these changes will decrease your risk. And it’s good to keep in mind that even small changes can make a big difference in preventing diabetes.
Adults should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you’re just starting out, set a smaller goal like taking a 15-minute walk in the morning and another 15-minute walk in the evening. Plus, it helps to find an exercise buddy.
In terms of eating healthier, it’s good to make small changes over time so that you’re more likely to stick with them. But overall, try to fill your plate at mealtimes with veggies, fruits, whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa, lean meats and lowfat dairy products, and a small amount of healthy fats, including avocado, olive oil and nuts or seeds.
And it’s not just about avoiding unhealthy foods — sugary drinks are often a big source of calories and sugar without offering the nutrients you need. So make sure you’re drinking more water and limit soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and sugary coffee drinks.
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
People who have undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes can experience the following symptoms:
- Always feeling thirsty
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Numb and/or tingling feet
- Slow-healing wounds
If you consistently experience these symptoms, make an appointment with your primary care physician.
Renown’s registered dietitians at Renown Health Improvement Programs can help you assess your diet and specific needs. To schedule a consultation, call 775-982-5073.