Life with Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes, a.k.a. Adult-onset Diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), is the most common form of diabetes. Diabetes is the inability of the body to properly make insulin or to properly use the insulin that it makes. This creates high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Unchecked diabetes can lead to other very serious illnesses like:

  • kidney failure,
  • blindness,
  • amputation of lower extremities, and
  • heart disease.

Diabetes is currently the sixth highest cause of death in the , though that figure may be an low. Cause of death may often be attributed to the above complications rather than diabetes itself.

If you are:

  • older,
  • have a family history of diabetes,
  • obese,
  • of a racial/genetic makeup containing an African, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino or American Indian heritage, or
  • a woman who has had gestational diabetes, you are at especially high risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

That said, anyone can develop this disease. If you think you may be at risk, or have one or several of the symptoms below, talk to your doctor and have yourself tested for diabetes as soon as possible. People in the high-risk categories may want to get an annual test to monitor blood glucose levels.

Symptoms can include:

  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Constant or extreme hunger
  • Dry skin
  • Intense thirst
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Tendency to get infections
  • Slow healing of minor wounds and abrasions
  • Sudden changes in the level of vision
  • Hypo- or hyper-glycemia
  • Depression

If you do have diabetes, don’t panic. There are a number of ways to control your glucose levels and live a healthy, long life. Your doctor will talk to you about the various medications that may be helpful to you in controlling your diabetes, and may recommend a daily blood-glucose monitoring device, but you should also develop a plan for nutritional support and exercise. This plan, if followed, will likely have the additional bonus of weight loss, which can help control the disease as well.

Nutrition is of paramount importance to diabetics. It is important to eat lots of non-starchy vegetables, and lean meat, seafood or soy proteins. Carbohydrates (which include sugars) should be chosen carefully for maximum benefit, and should comprise no more than �¼ of your general diet. The best carbohydrates to help control your blood sugar level are those that take longer to break down: whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and low or non-fat dairy products.

  • For protein, choose lean meats, seafood or soy.
  • Carbohydrates should include whole grains, nuts, vegetables and low or non-fat dairy.
  • Limit your intake of sweets.
  • Have fresh or dried fruits rather than sugary food.
  • Eat your meals at regular times
  • Include healthy snacks in your menus

In this way, you will be giving your body the support it needs to combat disease, and also prevent you from overeating.

Foods to avoid:

  • fried foods
  • saturated fats
  • trans-fatty acids
  • carbohydrates that do not offer other nutrition (this includes many candies and desserts)

Examine ingredient labels on packaged, prepared food very carefully for ingredients to avoid. Fresh is always better.

Formal diet programs that are designed with diabetics’ needs in mind include The South Beach Diet, The Sonoma Diet and The Zone Diet. Using one of these plans can help make controlling your glucose levels much easier with shopping lists and meal plans, and are healthy for the whole family. Remember that if *you* have diabetes, your children are also at risk, and feeding your family according to a diabetes-aware program will help them to begin forming healthy eating habits as early as possible.

Type 2 Diabetes seems to be related to obesity, and studies have shown that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of its development. It can also help ward off other kinds of illness and depression. Regular physical activity can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Some possibilities:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Yoga
  • Dance (at home, at a club, or in a class)
  • Martial Arts
  • Pilates
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Jumping Rope
  • Strength or endurance training in a gym
  • Any combination of the above

Do it regularly, and you’ll find yourself feeling great as well as controlling your diabetes! If you can, find an exercise partner to accompany and encourage you. Be sure to talk to your doctor and/or licensed personal trainer about your unique needs and capabilities before starting any exercise program. You’re trying to build good health, not hurt yourself!

One final lifestyle change that may be the most important in helping to control your Type 2 Diabetes is this: Build in a rewards system to your plan. It’s important for us to reward ourselves for doing well. At the end of a long, stressful week during which you’ve successfully battled temptation, you deserve some relief and some credit. Sadly, one of the most traditional methods of reward that most of us know is a delicious, sugary treat. Obviously, as a diabetic, this isn’t the best option. Fortunately, sugar and sugary foods are not the only way to reward yourself for doing good. You can also reward yourself by:

  • Buying yourself a music cd, a dvd or a computer game
  • Treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure or even a massage!
  • Plan a weekend getaway
  • Buy a special or expensive article of clothing
  • Get the embossed leather version of your favorite classic books
  • Plan a romantic evening
  • Take a day off just for you
  • Get that fancy new gadget you like so much
  • Surround yourself with good smells like essential oils, perfumes or bath products.
  • Taking yourself out to a play or concert

Finally, if you must treat yourself with sugar, there are ways to minimize the damage.

You can:

  • Choose only your absolute favorite!
  • Share a restaurant dessert with a dinner partner
  • Buy or make only a small portion

Rewards are important. If you’re avoiding sweet foods, find other ways to fill your life with sweetness.

Although Type 2 Diabetes is a very serious disease, a diagnosis needn’t be a disaster. You can still live a long, healthy and happy life. Early detection is important with this, as with many other illnesses. Assess your risk factors, see your doctor and get tested. Start changing your lifestyle to reflect your risk awareness. Discover great new ways to reward yourself without sweets. Enjoy!

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