Type 2 Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes type 2, and 7 million of them don’t even know they have it. The ADA also warns us that 79 million of us are already ‘pre-diabetic’, and have a very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the coming years. With this condition, blood sugar (same as blood glucose) levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood. In contrast to type 1, a genetic disease that destroys the cells that make insulin, type 2 is more common and accounts for 90-95% of new diabetes cases. Type 2 occurs when the body is not able to use its insulin effectively. Although traditionally considered a disease of adults, in recent years it has become more common in teenagers and children, paralleling our increasing trends in childhood obesity. Common symptoms include fatigue, increased thirst, urination, weight loss and blurred vision. As these symptoms can develop over time they are often less noticeable.
There are several recognized factors that put us at risk of developing diabetes type 2, including: having a family member who has diabetes, being Latino, overweight, over the age of 45, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, not getting enough physical activity and having had gestational diabetes during pregnancy. The Center for Disease Control reports that Latinos are 1.7 times more likely than non-Latino white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes. Most minority populations in the United States, including Latino Americans and non-Latino blacks, have much higher rates of diabetes than their white non-Latino counterparts. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. If not well controlled, diabetes can lead to serious complications and even early death.
Individuals with diabetes are at increased risk for complications including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, especially for smokers. Diabetes type 2 complications are debilitating and costly, but largely preventable. If you have diabetes, you can help protect yourself against its complications. Diabetes is a disease that is managed day to day. To decrease the chances of complications work closely with your health care provider to keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in their target ranges, quit smoking and commit to adopting healthy foods and physical activity as part of your daily life.
If you don’t have diabetes, or even if you already have ‘pre-diabetes’, know that you can do something to prevent it. A national study conducted by the National Institute of Health showed that type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented in overweight adults with pre-diabetes, including Hispanics/Latinos. In this study, those that were able to prevent diabetes lost 5 to 7 percent of their body weight (that means losing 10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 lbs); participated in physical activities, like brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week; and made healthier food choices by limiting the amount of calories and fat in their diet.
Diabetes and its complications are becoming more common, but it does not have to happen to you. Always talk to your health care provider about ways to better manage your diabetes or advise on how to make changes in your life that will help prevent it. For information on the web about diabetes and its prevention visit www.health.ny.gov or www.diabetes.org.
About the author:
Nallely Saldana-Ruiz, born in Mexico and raised in Northeast Los Angeles, is currently a second year medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York. She is the president of the University of Rochester School of Medicine’s Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), a national advocate for the health needs of he Latino community.