Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that causes problems with the body’s blood glucose levels. In type 2 diabetics, the body is not using insulin properly and your body can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.
How is Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosed?
Diabetes is diagnosed using blood tests. The most common is glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This test indicates your average blood sugar level for the past few months. An A1C level of 6.5 or higher on two separate tests indicates that you have diabetes.
In some situations or with certain medical conditions that interfere with the A1C test, other tests may be used. These include a random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test, or a glucose tolerance test. All of these tests provide readings of your blood sugar levels, and results with consistently high levels suggest diabetes.
Screening for Type 2 Diabetes
You may be screened for diabetes under the age of 45 if you are overweight with heart disease or have diabetes risk factors such as a family history of type 2 diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, personal history of gestational diabetes, or blood pressure above 140/90 (mm Hg).
The American Diabetes Association recommends routine screening in adults 45 and older who are overweight. Depending on the results, your doctor may want you to repeat the test every few years. Some symptoms of diabetes can include frequent urination and extreme thirst, increased hunger after eating, dry mouth, fatigue, blurred vision, and unexplained weight loss.
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, further tests will be done to determine if you are type 1 or type 2 since the conditions have different issues and require different treatments.
If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes your A1C levels will be checked a few times a year. Your doctor will discuss your target A1C goals with you based on your medical history, but the American Diabetes Association recommends an A1C level below 7%.
In addition to blood tests, your doctor will perform routine blood pressure measurements, urine samples, and check cholesterol levels, thyroid, liver and kidney functions. A treatment plan will be recommended to keep your A1C levels low, and this can include medication, diet recommendations, and physical activity plans.
Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help you manage type 2 diabetes. There are several steps you can take to keep your blood sugar levels down, and close to normal.
The first step is weight loss. Losing weight can lower your blood sugar levels. Even losing 5 to 10% of your body weight can make a big impact on your levels. Sustained weight loss of 7% or more of your beginning weight is recommended to maintain levels closer to normal and to prevent complications. Portion control and a healthy diet are the optimal paths to weight loss.
A healthy diet that contains fewer refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and sweets is key to managing your diabetes. There is no specific “diabetes diet”, so look to add more fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich foods, and fewer calories to your eating plan. Consulting a registered dietitian can be helpful in designing a meal plan that you can enjoy and sustain. She can also work with you to help monitor your carbohydrate intake so that you can maintain a stable blood sugar level.
Type 2 diabetics need regular aerobic exercise. After consulting with your doctor, choose an exercise program with activities you enjoy and make them part of your daily schedule. Walking, swimming, bicycling are all great aerobic activities. You’ll want to do about 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week, with a goal of 15-30 minutes of that being vigorous. A variety of activities that include aerobic exercise mixed with strength training, weight lifting or yoga is extremely beneficial and more effective than focusing on a single type of exercise. In addition to increasing your physical activity, you’ll need to look to decrease the time you spend inactive.
Check your blood sugar levels before any activity. Physical activity lowers your blood sugar and you may need to eat a snack prior to exercising.
Blood Sugar Level Tracking
Work with your doctor to determine how frequently you’ll need to check and record your blood sugar levels. This varies with patients but you need to make sure your levels remain in your target range.
Some patients will be prescribed medications or insulin therapy to help keep blood sugar levels in their target range. Several things, mostly related to your health history, can influence the decision to include treatments outside of healthy eating and physical activity. Metformin is an effective and affordable medication that is usually the first medication prescribed to type 2 diabetics. Other medications include Sulfonylureas, Meglitinides, Thiazolidinediones, DPP-4 Inhibitors, GLP-1 receptor agonists, SGLT2 inhibitors or insulin therapy.
In some extreme cases, bariatric surgery may be recommended. Other health issues, like pregnancy, may call for an alteration in the treatment plan. It is always important to discuss with your healthcare provider the treatment plan that is right for your medical situation.
And always be aware of signs of low blood sugar, such as sweating, shaking, weakness, hunger, blurred vision, drowsiness, and headaches. If you experience signs of low blood sugar quickly eat or drink something that will raise your blood sugar levels and then retest after 15 minutes to make sure your levels are back to normal.
Living with type 2 diabetes isn’t easy but it is manageable with the right treatment plan. And while you may need to make dietary and lifestyle changes, there is some flexibility in choosing the foods and activities that work for you. It is important to commit to proper care to prevent complications, and a supportive team of doctors, family and friends can help you on this journey.