Live Longer, Stronger - Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes




Best prevention of Type 2 Diabetes--eat less, exercise more

By K.H. Queen

The facts are scary: Blindness. Kidney disease. Nerve damage. Infections that won’t heal. Heart disease. Stroke. Amputations. Those are just some of the health risks associated with diabetes, says Dr. Jo Anne Guzman-Lee of Amelia Medical Associates in Norfolk.

One of the major causes of blindness is diabetic retinopathy, she says. Diabetics also get cataracts at a younger age. People with type 2 diabetes are more at risk for kidney disease. More than 70 percent of the cases of kidney failure are caused by diabetes, says Dr. Joanne Siu of Peninsula Kidney Associates in Hampton.

Diabetics also are more prone to bacterial and fungal infections, especially in the lower legs. “You lose sensation in the limbs, especially in the feet,” Guzman-Lee says.

“You can’t feel where your feet are going. It affects your sense of balance. You become unstable because you don’t know where to place your feet. You’re more prone to having an amputation—you could get an infection in your foot and not even know it. You could step on a nail or walk on fire and not feel it.”

Even scarier is the fact that a high blood sugar level, often how diabetes is confi rmed, is one of the later signals you have diabetes, Guzman-Lee says. “They say that once you are diagnosed with diabetes, you have had diabetes for five to 10 years,” she says. “The last number to go up is your blood sugar. It’s already starting to damage your kidneys and your nerves before you even get diagnosed.”

Not scared enough yet? Men with diabetes are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, Guzman-Lee says. The incidence of type 1 diabetes (people are born with it, and it’s usually diagnosed in childhood) is staying about the same, Guzman-Lee says. But the incidence of type 2 diabetes, often called adult onset and linked to a family history and weight, is increasing and beginning to affect people at younger ages, she says.

“The incidence has increased a lot because people are more obese,” she says. “With diabetes, your body is not responding to the insulin that the body makes. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells are to the insulin your body makes.”

The good news is, if you’re overweight and lose 10 percent of your body weight, you can cut your risk of developing diabetes by 50 percent, she says. “I attended a lecture once by an endocrinologist, and there was a question—'Is there a cure for diabetes?’ and he said, ‘Put a zipper on your mouth.’”

More good news: to save your feet, get on your feet. If you’re fat but fit, it helps. “The less active you are, the greater the risk,” Guzman-Lee says. “Whenever you exercise, it uses up glucose and energy. When you use up glucose, it makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.”

Better news: if you lose weight, you may be able to control diabetes with diet and exercise instead of having to inject insulin and take other medicine, Guzman-Lee says.

That’s especially good to keep in mind because it’s ironic, but some of the medicines treating diabetes can actually make you gain weight, she says. Other side effects include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, she says.

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