There are nearly 30 million people in the United States living with type 2 diabetes. For many people with the condition, applying an effective management plan can feel overwhelming. Knowing the basics of how diabetes works, the signs to look out for and how to achieve your health goals can make your journey less stressful to manage.
How Diabetes Works
“If you have diabetes, your body has difficulty breaking down the sugars in food because it lacks or does not respond to insulin,” says Avni Jain, MD, a family medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group. “Without proper management, this can cause serious health issues, including vision loss, heart attacks and strokes.”
Diabetes tends to run in families and is diagnosed more frequently among African-Americans, Hispanics/ Latinos and Native Americans. Diabetes is often caused by preventable risk factors, such as physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits.
Symptoms to Look Out For
Type 2 diabetes affects every part of your body and can produce mild to severe symptoms. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Frequent urination
- Feeling thirsty or hungry after eating or drinking
- Extreme fatigue
- Skin infections, itching and rashes
- Blurry vision, glaucoma or cataracts
- Nerve damage
- Slow-healing cuts and bruises
- Tingling, pain and numbness in your hands and feet
If you notice you have new symptoms or your present symptoms get worse, talk to your physician right away.
Tips to Manage Your Diabetes
You and your family can follow these tips to ensure you maintain a normal body weight, experience less diabetes-related complications and stay focused on your health.
Know your “Diabetes ABCs”
- A1C – In addition to checking your blood glucose levels at home, getting an A1C blood test at your doctor’s office is key. “The A1C blood test evaluates your blood sugar levels over a three-month period,” Dr. Jain says. “For optimal control of your diabetes, keep your A1C level under 7. If your A1C level is consistently above 7, your condition is not under control and you are at higher risk for serious health complications”
- Blood pressure – Blood pressure describes the force of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels. If the pressure is too high, your heart is working too hard which can cause serious complications.
- Cholesterol – There are two types of cholesterol to be aware of – HDL and LDL. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol and can clog your blood vessels while HDL, or the “good” cholesterol, helps keep them clear. “To reduce your risk of heart disease, aim to keep your LDL levels as low as possible while raising your HDL,” says Dr. Jain.