Dr. Lisa Sumlin is a researcher, professor, author and Clinical Nurse Specialist with extensive experience in diabetes management.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 30 million people who have diabetes, equating to 9.4 percent of the total population in the United States.
There are several types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and prediabetes. Between 90 percent and 95 percent of people with this condition have type 2 diabetes, which means there is too much sugar flowing in the blood stream instead of going into the cells for energy. Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, the hormone that allows sugar to enter cells and produce energy. You may be diagnosed with prediabetes when you have too much sugar in the blood but not enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. If no corrective action is taken, prediabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is often caused by lifestyle behaviors, namely poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. Unhealthy eating habits and lack of daily exercise cause the body to stop working properly in two ways. First, in the pancreas there is a decrease in the number of beta cells that produce insulin. Second, the insulin in the body is not being used properly. Our bodies will compensate by overproducing insulin to maintain normal blood sugars levels. This overcompensation process can last for many years, until the pancreas cannot keep up, leading to type 2 diabetes.
When diabetes is not properly controlled, patients may experience a number of complications. According to the American Diabetes Association, proper management of diabetes is based on an A1c level that is less than 7.0 percent. Too much sugar in the blood causes blood to become thicker than normal. As this blood flows to different parts of the body, including the eyes, kidneys, heart and more, it’s not able to provide these tissues and organs with the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive. As a result, it can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, possibly an early death or the amputation of different limbs.
Protect your friends and loved ones by knowing and reducing the risk factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes. There are two types of risk factors: those we have the power to change and those we cannot change. Age and ethnicity are two risk factors outside of our control; people above the age of 45 and minority populations are at a greater risk for having diabetes. Risk factors that can be controlled are weight, high blood pressure or cholesterol and lack of physical activity.
You can begin to make lifestyle changes today! Making simple, healthier choices will pay dividends in the future. Instead of having two dinner rolls, only have one. Instead of having that extra scoop of potatoes, have half a scoop. After dinner get up and walk to your front door several times before sitting on the couch to relax. Small steps in a healthy direction contribute to habits that reduce risk, increase longevity and maintain quality of life. Let’s actively help friends and family members live long, healthy lives!