The American Diabetes Association Alert Day is Thursday, March 26,. It is a wake-up call alert day that encourages everyone to take a type 2 diabetes risk test and to learn more about reversing their risk for diabetes. A risk assessment test can be found at diabetes.org.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by the body’s inability to properly store and use glucose for energy. Type 1 diabetes is often hereditary and unpreventable. Type 2 diabetes is more common than most people think and is related to aging, inactive lifestyle, genetic influence, and obesity. As many as 1 in 3 Americans will develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime. 

“There is a definite difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Tyler Hansen, DO, a family medicine physician at Intermountain Healthcare. “Type 1 is a failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. In type 2 the pancreas still works initially; it is the insulin receptors within the body’s cells that develop resistance and function inappropriately. Both types respond to insulin treatment. Type 2, however, can sometimes be fully controlled or delayed with only diet and exercise.”

Why is type 2 diabetes a big concern?

Complications from uncontrolled diabetes affect all systems of the body. Neuropathy, heart conditions, amputation, blindness, kidney failure, stroke, dental disease, and serious infection are a few of the complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes.

“Everyone knows that smoking is harmful,” said Hansen. “Uncontrolled diabetes can cause just as broad of damage, if not more. I don’t like the term prediabetes. I prefer early diabetes. This helps patients understand the gravity of the diagnosis and promotes them to do something to help prevent full blown diabetes.”

Prediabetes, or early diabetes, is a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is the term used for individuals who display many risk factors for diabetes and who may already be suffering the adverse health effects of abnormal glucose regulation. It is estimated that one in every three adults has early diabetes. One-third of those with early diabetes will progress to diabetes within three to five years.

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include age, low physical activity, weight (high BMI), and high blood pressure. An immediate family member with diabetes is also a risk factor. Timely, accurate screening and early diagnosis of diabetes can prevent or delay complications and is crucial to better patient outcomes.

“Screening tests for diabetes are usually done during annual exams with your health care provider,” said Hansen. “Glucose tests for diabetes are usually part of regular blood tests. Discuss these tests and any fasting requirements with your doctor for best accuracy.”

How can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

“The most important thing individuals can do is to eat right,” said Hansen. “Avoid overeating, eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly. Exercise promotes good blood flow and boosts cell’s use of insulin, thus decreasing resistance. Diet, exercise and medication can help control early diabetes and even delay or prevent diabetes.”

Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week, weight loss, medication therapy, educational resources and ongoing support programs for those diagnosed with early diabetes can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Take an online risk assessment today and then ask your health care provider about support programs such as prediabetes classes, medical nutrition therapy, weight loss programs, and online educational programs. Support programs can help you focus on diabetes prevention and make positive lifestyle changes to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and enjoy better quality of life.

Dr. Tyler Hansen

This LiVe Well column represents collaboration between healthcare professionals from the medical staffs of our not-for-profit Intermountain Healthcare hospitals and The Richfield Reaper.

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