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Understanding type 2 diabetes

by Shannon Lee

The incidence of Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, and the risk of developing the disease increases as we age. What is Type 2 diabetes, and what can be done to prevent it?

Type 2 diabetes is on the rise. In fact, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes doubled in the decade between 1997 and 2007. As bodies age, the chances of developing diabetes become more likely, but there are ways to prevent the disease.

Type 2 Diabetes: The Basics

Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by one of two things: either your body doesn't produce enough insulin, or it doesn't use the insulin properly. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of going to the cells for use as energy. Those high blood sugar levels can lead to serious complications over time, including blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, and limb amputations.

Type 2 diabetes is often controlled with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and oral medications. Sometimes insulin might be required as well. Much more common than Type 1, Type 2 diabetes affects up to 95 percent of all those diagnosed.

Type 2 Diabetes and Seniors: What You Should Know

Family history, genetics, and lifestyle factors all play a part in whether you will develop diabetes. Age also matters--after the age of 45, your risk for developing diabetes increases. 50 percent of all diabetes cases occurs in those age 55 or older. According to the American Diabetes Association, 18 percent of all Americans aged 60 or older have been diagnosed with diabetes.

In addition to age, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are recognized as risk factors. Those who are inactive or carrying excess weight are more likely to develop diabetes as well.

Much of the risk of diabetes can be mitigated by taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

Tips for Diabetes Prevention

Taking steps to prevent diabetes is your first line of defense against the disease. These tips go a long way toward diabetes prevention:

  • If you have a family history of diabetes, ask your doctor to test you for the disease. The symptoms of diabetes can be mild at first, and easy to mistake for other ailments.
  • If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
  • Take steps to reduce your risks of heart disease, and you can also lower your risk of diabetes. Stop smoking, lower your blood pressure, and aim for healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Get moving! Studies have shown that increasing your physical activity can reduce your risk of diabetes by more than 50 percent.
  • A diet low in fat and high in fiber is a good bet for diabetes prevention.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that might reduce your risk of diabetes. A recent study by the National Institute of Health showed that those at high risk for diabetes could reduce their odds by 31 percent by taking the prescription drug Metformin in addition to diet and exercise.

Talk to Your Doctor

Other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, might prevent you from following the typical diabetic diet and exercise program. Before you begin any diet or exercise program, speak to your doctor about what is best for you.