Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a disorder that disrupts the way your body uses sugar. All the cells in your body need sugar to work normally. Sugar gets into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is not enough insulin, or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. That is what happens to people with diabetes.
There are 2 different types of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the problem is that the body makes little or no insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the problem is that the body’s cells do not respond to insulin; do not make enough insulin or both. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of this disease.
Other forms include gestational diabetes, which is a condition that can occur during pregnancy.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
Some diabetes risk factors can be managed or reduced, while others may be out of your control. The chances of developing type 2 diabetes depend on a combination of factors such as genetics and lifestyle. You can’t change your family history, age or ethnicity, but you can change lifestyle factors like your eating habits, physical activity and weight that can help delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.
Having any of the following risk factors increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes:
- being overweight or obese
- being over age 40
- a family history of diabetes
- being of African, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous or South Asian descent
- high blood pressure
- high levels of blood cholesterol
- pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose)
- Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder)
- obstructive sleep apnea
- darkened patches of skin around the neck or armpits called acanthosis nigricans
- lack of physical activity
- a history of heart disease or stroke
- a history of gestational diabetes or having a baby weighing 9 lbs or more
To find out if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, take this quick and simple test offered by Diabetes Canada.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes
Often there are no signs or symptoms of type 2 diabetes but two common warning signs are:
- excessive thirst
- frequent urination
Other signs and symptoms can include:
- unexplained weight change (gain or loss)
- extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- blurred vision
- frequent or recurring infections
- cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- erectile dysfunction
Preventing type 2 diabetes
To reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, take an active role in your health.
- Eat healthy foods. Diet is the most important part of lifestyle change and small modifications can make a big difference.
- Cut out highly processed foods, refined grains such as white bread, sugary food and sugary drinks.
- Focus on fibre. Eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole-grain. High-fiber foods help control blood sugar.
- Stick to a schedule eating three meals a day. Be consistent in your food portions and timing of meals.
- A little extra activity each day can go a long way. Start with limiting the amount of time spent sitting. Stand up and move around briefly every 20 to 30 minutes. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Regular exercise is essential to lowering blood sugar levels and improving your body’s ability to use insulin or diabetes medications.
- Try to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week (like walking, bicycling or jogging). Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is a major contributing factor in diabetes.
Being overweight is by far the greatest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds can improve your blood sugar levels.
Have diabetes already? If you have diabetes the most important thing you can do is to control your “ABCs”:
- “A” stands for “A1C” – A1C is a blood test that shows what your average blood sugar level has been during the last few months.
- “B” stands for “blood pressure” – If you have diabetes, controlling your blood pressure is just as important as controlling your blood sugar. High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.
- “C” stands for “cholesterol” – Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood. High cholesterol is another factor that increases your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other serious problems.
Diabetes requires expert health care. If you think you may have diabetes, or you have diabetes but your symptoms seem to be worsening, speak to your doctor or nurse practitioner
Mayo Clinic. (2019). Home Remedies. Every Day Health the Natural Way.