Type 2 Diabetes: What is Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body resists the effects of insulin and therefore can't maintain a normal blood sugar level. There's no cure, but type 2 diabetes can be managed and even prevented. If it's not detected and controlled, it can wreak havoc on vital organs and can even cause death.
The Signs Are Subtle
The symptoms for type 2 diabetes are often subtle and easily dismissed as just another side effect of aging. Ask your aging parents or loved ones if they have experienced any of these warning signs:
- Extreme thirst and frequent urination
- Sores that are slow to heal
- Increased hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bladder and vaginal infections
- Vision problems
- Tiring easily
Who's at Risk
Type 2 diabetes is much more common in people over 45. Your loved ones have an even higher chance of having type 2 diabetes if they are:
- Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian American
If they have a family history of diabetes or had gestational diabetes (diabetes when pregnant), their risk level is also higher.
Early Detection and Diagnosis Can Help
Make a doctor's appointment for your loved one if you have any suspicion of diabetes. It's important to get glucose levels under control as soon as possible. The doctor will run blood sugar tests to determine if there is a problem. Even if diabetes isn't suspected, regular screening is recommended for anyone over 45 because the symptoms can go unnoticed.
The Bad News
Many people ignore their type 2 diabetes because they don't feel sick. But if the disease is not controlled by diet and/or insulin or other medications, as well as exercise, the long-term complications are extremely serious:
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- Kidney damage
- Nerve damage
- Foot problems, sometimes resulting in amputation
- Alzheimer's disease
The Good News
While there's no cure for type 2 diabetes, the good news is that proper diet and exercise often help maintain healthy blood sugar levels - often without added insulin. Here's what your loved one can do to keep the effects of diabetes to a minimum:
- Maintain regular blood sugar monitoring.
- Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day.
- Exercise regularly.
- Manage stress.
- Maintain insulin or other medical therapy, if needed.