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How to Prevent Diabetes

What is type 2 diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels are too high. With type 2 diabetes, this happens because your body does not make enough insulin, or it does not use insulin well (this is called insulin resistance). If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you might be able to prevent or delay developing it.

Who is at risk for type 2 diabetes?

Many Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Your chances of getting it depend on a combination of risk factors such as your genes and lifestyle. The risk factors include:

  • Having prediabetes, which means you have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes
  • Being overweight or having obesity
  • Being age 45 or older
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having a low level of HDL (good) cholesterol or a high level of triglycerides
  • A history of diabetes in pregnancy
  • Having given birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • A history of heart disease or stroke
  • Having depression
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Having acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition in which your skin becomes dark and thick, especially around your neck or armpits
  • Smoking
How can I prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes?

If you are at risk for diabetes, you may be able to prevent or delay getting it. Most of the things that you need to do involve having a healthier lifestyle. So if you make these changes, you will get other health benefits as well. You may lower your risk of other diseases, and you will probably feel better and have more energy. The changes are:

  • Losing weight and keeping it off.Weight control is an important part of diabetes prevention. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 10% of your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose between 10 to 20 pounds. And once you lose the weight, it is important that you don't gain it back.
  • Following a healthy eating plan. It is important to reduce the amount of calories you eat and drink each day, so you can lose weight and keep it off. To do that, your diet should include smaller portions and less fat and sugar. You should also eat a variety of foods from each food group, including plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It's also a good idea to limit red meat, and avoid processed meats.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise has many health benefits, including helping you to lose weight and lower your blood sugar levels. These both lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your health care professional to figure out which types of exercise are best for you. You can start slowly and work up to your goal.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you already smoke, try to quit.
  • Talk to your health care provider to see whether there is anything else you can do to delay or to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you are at high risk, your provider may suggest that you take one of a few types of diabetes medicines.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetes Complications

What is diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. A hormone called insulin helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood.

What health problems can diabetes cause?

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause complications, including:

  • Eye disease, due to changes in fluid levels, swelling in the tissues, and damage to the blood vessels in the eyes
  • Foot problems, caused by damage to the nerves and reduced blood flow to your feet
  • Gum disease and other dental problems, because a high amount of blood sugar in your saliva helps harmful bacteria grow in your mouth. The bacteria combine with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque. Plaque also comes from eating foods that contain sugars or starches. Some types of plaque cause gum disease and bad breath. Other types cause tooth decay and cavities.
  • Heart disease and stroke, caused by damage to your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels
  • Kidney disease, due to damage to the blood vessels in your kidneys. Many people with diabetes develop high blood pressure. That can also damage your kidneys.
  • Nerve problems (diabetic neuropathy), caused by damage to the nerves and the small blood vessels that nourish your nerves with oxygen and nutrients
  • Sexual and bladder problems, caused by damage to the nerves and reduced blood flow in the genitals and bladder
  • Skin conditions, some of which are caused by changes in the small blood vessels and reduced circulation. People with diabetes are also more likely to have infections, including skin infections.
What other problems can people with diabetes have?

If you have diabetes, you need to watch out for blood sugar levels that are very high (hyperglycemia) or very low (hypoglycemia). These can happen quickly and can become dangerous. Some of the causes include having another illness or infection and certain medicines. They can also happen if you don't get the right amount of diabetes medicines. To try to prevent these problems, make sure to take your diabetes medicines correctly, follow your diabetic diet, and check your blood sugar regularly.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetes Insipidus

Diabetes insipidus (DI) causes frequent urination. You become extremely thirsty, so you drink. Then you urinate. This cycle can keep you from sleeping or even make you wet the bed. Your body produces lots of urine that is almost all water.

DI is different from diabetes mellitus (DM), which involves insulin problems and high blood sugar. The symptoms can be similar. However, DI is related to how your kidneys handle fluids. It's much less common than DM. Urine and blood tests can show which one you have.

Usually, DI is caused by a problem with your pituitary gland or your kidneys. Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Medicines can often help.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetes Medicines

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood.

What are the treatments for diabetes?

Treatments for diabetes depend on the type. Common treatments include a diabetic meal plan, regular physical activity, and medicines. Some less common treatments are weight loss surgery for either type and an artificial pancreas or pancreatic islet transplantation for some people with type 1 diabetes.

Who needs diabetes medicines?

People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin to control their blood sugar.

Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar with healthy food choices and physical activity. But for others, a diabetic meal plan and physical activity are not enough. They need to take diabetes medicines.

The kind of medicine you take depends on your type of diabetes, daily schedule, medicine costs, and other health conditions.

What are the types of medicines for type 1 diabetes?

If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin because your body no longer makes it. Different types of insulin start to work at different speeds, and the effects of each last a different length of time. You may need to use more than one type.

You can take insulin several different ways. The most common are with a needle and syringe, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump. If you use a needle and syringe or a pen, you have to take insulin several times during the day, including with meals. An insulin pump gives you small, steady doses throughout the day. Less common ways to take insulin include Inhalers, injection ports, and jet injectors.

In rare cases, taking insulin alone might not be enough to manage your blood sugar. Then you would need to take another diabetes medicine.

What are the types of medicines for type 2 diabetes?

There are several different medicines for type 2 diabetes. Each works in a different way. Many diabetes medicines are pills. There are also medicines that you inject under your skin, such as insulin.

Over time, you may need more than one diabetes medicine to manage your blood sugar. You might add another diabetes medicine or switch to a combination medicine. A combination medicine is a pill than contains more than one type of diabetes medicine. Some people with type 2 diabetes take both pills and insulin.

Even if you don't usually take insulin, you may need it at special times, such as during pregnancy or if you are in the hospital.

What else should I know about taking medicines for diabetes?

Even if you take medicines for diabetes, you still need to eat a healthy diet and do regular physical activity. These will help you manage your diabetes.

It is important to make sure that you understand your diabetes treatment plan. Talk to your provider about:

  • What your target blood sugar level is
  • What to do if your blood sugar gets too low or too high
  • Whether your diabetes medicines will affect other medicines you take
  • Any side effects you have from the diabetes medicines

You should not change or stop your diabetes medicines on your own. Talk to your provider first.

Some people who take diabetes medicines may need medicines for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other conditions. This may help you avoid or control any complications of diabetes.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

A1C

A1C is a blood test for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. It measures your average blood glucose, or blood sugar, level over the past 3 months. Doctors may use the A1C alone or in combination with other diabetes tests to make a diagnosis. They also use the A1C to see how well you are managing your diabetes. This test is different from the blood sugar checks that people with diabetes do every day.

Your A1C test result is given in percentages. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels have been:

  • A normal A1C level is below 5.7%
  • Prediabetes is between 5.7 to 6.4%. Having prediabetes is a risk factor for getting type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes may need retests every year.
  • Type 2 diabetes is above 6.5%
  • If you have diabetes, you should have the A1C test at least twice a year. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7. It may be different for you. Ask what your goal should be. If your A1C result is too high, you may need to change your diabetes care plan.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases