What is Type 2 Diabetes?

type 2 diabetes

Image: Shutterstock/ natalia bulatova

Type 2 diabetes is the kind of condition that changes your life. It requires huge changes to everything from what you eat to the most basic elements of your daily routine. And the number of people who suffer from it is growing in much of the world. But in spite of that, many people don’t know that much about what causes diabetes, or how to manage it, or even how to reduce their risk of developing the condition.

So what is type 2 diabetes? How is it treated? And how can you prevent it?

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes is caused by the inability of your body to process insulin properly. The food you eat is processed into glucose by your digestive system, which is then sent to your cells to provide energy. But to do that, your body needs insulin.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas, which secretes it into the bloodstream where it helps to process glucose. But some people can become insulin resistant, which means that their body stops being able to use insulin effectively. As a result, that glucose builds up in the bloodstream which leads to a variety of health effects like an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve pain.

There are a number of different factors that influence how likely you are to become diabetes resistant. Genetics play a big role, for instance. Having a relative with type 2 diabetes makes you more likely to develop the condition yourself. But just as important are things like diet and lifestyle.

Being overweight is a significant diabetes risk, which explains why the rates of type 2 diabetes are on the rise as obesity becomes a more significant problem in much of the developed world. Lack of exercise and poor nutrition play a significant role in raising your risk of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes differs from type 1 diabetes in that where type 2 diabetes occurs when your pancreas is still producing insulin but your body isn’t able to use it effectively, type 1 diabetes is caused when your body stops producing insulin altogether. But both conditions are treated in a similar way.

How is it Treated?

Diabetes is usually treated by regular injections of insulin to counteract the body’s inability to produce and use insulin naturally. This treatment requires the patient to carefully monitor their blood sugar levels and inject insulin when they get to high. Usually, patients monitor their blood sugar with a portable reader that pricks a finger in order to determine the blood glucose levels.

In addition, people with diabetes have to be careful about what they eat. Maintaining a healthy diet will not only help with weight loss but can also keep blood sugar levels constant, preventing dangerous spikes in blood sugar. Finally, exercise is important to maintaining a healthy blood sugar level and helps prevent other symptoms of diabetes as well.

The good news is that, unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is usually reversible. A recent study showed that patients who restricted their diet to around 800 calories a day saw their diabetes go into remission. And by maintaining a balanced diet, these patients were able to keep their diabetes from coming back in the long term.

But it’s important to remember that even if your diabetes goes into remission, gaining weight will usually cause your diabetes to return, which shows why maintaining a healthy weight is vital to treating type 2 diabetes.

How can you Prevent it?

And maintaining a healthy weight is also vital to preventing diabetes as well. An unhealthy lifestyle is a huge risk when it comes to developing diabetes, but it’s also something you can control, unlike genetics. Avoid foods that are high in fat and look for healthy whole grains and vegetables.

Exercise is also important. But you also don’t have to take up marathon running to prevent diabetes. Look for easy ways to get a bit more active during the day. Take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and walk around at work. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. And consider using technology to help you manage your weight.

There are a number of apps and fitness trackers you can get that will help you log your food and activity. Keeping close track of your calories burned versus calories eaten makes it much easier to manage your weight. And studies have shown that people who keep track of their calories and log their meals lose more weight and keep it off than those who don’t.

Just remember that when it comes to diabetes, it helps to be proactive and that a little bit of prevention is worth a lot of cure.