Almost 10 percent of the U.S. population has some type of diabetes, and when prediabetes is included, that number more than doubles. Among the different types of diabetes, type 2 is the most prevalent. Type 2 usually comes later in life and can be caused by several factors.
While risk factors for type 2 diabetes include genetics, age, race, pregnancy, stress, family history and high cholesterol, the most likely predictor is being overweight or obese. About 9 in 10 people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. This is largely due to the stress put on the body’s ability to create and properly use insulin as a result of being overweight.
Controlling type 2 diabetes
As obesity is one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes, keeping your weight in a healthy range will go a long way toward preventing and controlling the disease. Beyond watching your weight, here are other steps you can take to keep type 2 diabetes in check:
1. Know your ABCs
The National Institutes of Health recommends talking to your healthcare providers about your diabetes “ABCs,” which stand for the A1C test, blood pressure and cholesterol. The A1C test measures your average blood sugar levels over a period of time — usually 3 or more months. Knowing your A1C is important because it helps you determine if your blood sugar has been high for a while versus just at the moment of the blood sugar test. Over time, high blood sugar levels can negatively affect the health of your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet and eyes.
Keeping track of your blood pressure and cholesterol is also important in controlling diabetes because diabetes significantly increases your risk of heart disease. Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol can cause major heart health problems — such as heart attack or stroke.
2. Try to de-stress
Both physical and mental stress can affect people with type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, long-term physical stress from events like surgery or physical ailments can raise blood sugar levels and, similarly, mental stress also commonly raises blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes.
Coping with stress is different for everyone. While you may not be able to completely remove the sources of your stress from your life, there are a few methods you can try to reduce the burden of stress. This includes everything from exercise such as yoga, to focused breathing techniques, to one of the many forms of meditation. If pressure from stress and anxiety persists and is difficult to manage on your own , consider talking to a mental health counselor, finding a support group, or even sharing your concerns with a family member or friend. Often vocalizing your feelings will help make them more manageable.
Augusta Health offers a Diabetes Support Group on the third Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. For more information, please contact the Augusta Health Diabetes and Nutrition Self-Management Program at (540) 213-2537.
3. Stay active
Because type 2 diabetes is closely connected to being overweight or obese, activities that help keep you at a healthy weight will also help keep diabetes under control. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous for it to have a positive effect on your health. Particularly if you are just starting out, try walking for 10 minutes a few times a day. Physical activities that you already enjoy, such as gardening, yoga or playing sports, are also a good way to stay healthy.
If you are interested in exercise but are a bit afraid because of a medical condition, such as diabetes, contact the Augusta Health Fitness Center at (540) 332-5433 (Staunton ) or (540) 932-5433 (Waynesboro) regarding their Medical Fitness Program.
4. Eat well
Maintaining or adopting a healthy diet can also have a large impact on your health if you have type 2 diabetes. Ask your healthcare provider for a referral for Augusta Health Outpatient Diabetes and Nutrition Self-Management Education Program, where a diabetes educator can help you come up with a menu that you enjoy and also supports your health goals. The goal of the program is to help make diabetes meal planning simple for all. If you are looking for guidance with healthy eating, contact the program at (540) 213-2537.
5. Work with your provider
Healthcare providers at Augusta Health are here to help. If you are concerned about the effect type 2 diabetes is having on your life, talk to your doctor. Ask him or her about your A1C test results in addition to both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, ask your doctor about diabetes self-management education as this helps patients to stay healthy and prevent costly complications. Diabetes education provided by a certified diabetes educator is a benefit covered by most healthcare plans as well as by Medicare.
Taking a proactive step in your health can make the difference between living well with diabetes and experiencing negative physical consequences, such as high sugar levels and heart problems.
If you have more questions about type 2 diabetes, talk with your doctor, or contact either the Augusta Health Diabetes & Endocrinology Clinic at (540) 245-7180 or the Augusta Health Outpatient Diabetes and Nutrition Self-Management Education Program at (540) 213-2537.