Type 2 diabetes is a dangerous disease, and one for which there is no cure. In 2010, it was estimated that 79 million Americans ages 20 and older had pre-diabetes – and even more were at risk.
There are a number of factors that can increase your odds of diabetes or pre-diabetes. Some are controllable, while others are not. Some of these factors include:
- Being overweight
- Exercising fewer than three times each week
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Being older than 45
- Having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
- Having high blood pressure or cholesterol
- Having a history of heart disease
- Being African-American, Hispanic, American-Indian or Pacific Islander
- Having given birth to a baby 9 pounds or larger
- Having a history of some other endocrine conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome
Fortunately, pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes can often be prevented. Research shows that reducing your body weight by 5 to 10 percent – or 10 to 20 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds – can cut your diabetes risk in half.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, however, the first thing you should do is set up a diabetes care team. The first step is to make sure you have a primary care doctor. Your physician can help you recruit the rest of the team, which should include a:
- Diabetes or nurse educator to help you manage daily aspects of diabetes. This includes how to take insulin shots and how to identify low blood sugar reactions.
- Registered dietician to help you plan a healthy diet.
- Optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor) to watch for diabetic eye disease.
- Social worker or psychologist to help you cope with the emotional side of diabetes.
- Podiatrist (foot doctor) to help prevent, diagnose and treat foot complications from diabetes.
- Dentist to take care of your teeth and gums.
- Exercise physiologist to help develop a fitness program for you.
- Pharmacist to answer questions related to medication.
To goal of managing diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels under control to prevent complications. Your team will tell you where your blood sugar level should be. You may need to check your blood sugar levels several times a day – this is especially important right after being diagnosed, starting new medication or changing doses.