Diabetes is prevalent among 1 in 10 Americans today, while 1 in 3 adults are showing signs of prediabetes. And type-2 diabetes accounts for 90–95% of all these cases and has become a common health condition that continues to haunt modern-day life.
So, chances are someone close to you is already experiencing symptoms or undergoing treatment for this highly prevalent disease. Although it does not prevent many people from leading near-normal lives, failing to manage it could lead to various mental and physical health complications. Therefore, understanding type-2 diabetes is essential to create a healthy home environment and overcome its negative effects on your family.
What exactly is type-2 diabetes?
Cells require glucose (or sugar) to produce energy. And the insulin hormone plays an important role in this function by helping the bloodstream-to-cell movement of glucose.
However, type-2 diabetes occurs when the body does not recognize or respond to insulin. It could also result from a decreased production of the hormone. This could cause glucose to build up in the bloodstream and prevent cells from accessing the required energy for essential functions.
While genetics could play a role in triggering this condition, an unhealthy lifestyle is also considered a common cause.
Studies show that 89% of adults diagnosed with diabetes are overweight, and 38% were leading sedentary lives.
Should you be concerned?
Diabetes could lead to various other health complications over time. Slowed healing of wounds is one of the most common concerns, which could even lead to amputation in chronic cases. In fact, 85% of amputations are estimated to be the result of a diabetic foot ulcer.
The long-term effects of type-2 diabetes can include increased risks of heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye damage, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
It could have equally concerning effects on mental health. Diabetics are 2 to 3 times more likely to experience depression than non-diabetics. They are also at a higher risk of experiencing stress and eating disorders.
Therefore, early diagnosis is essential to minimize its impact on mental and physical wellbeing. While there is still no permanent cure, type-2 diabetes can certainly be managed. And treatment plans will often include both medication and lifestyle changes.
How can you support a loved one diagnosed with type-2 diabetes?
If you are living with someone diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, there are several steps you can take to help them manage its impact.
- Switch to a diabetic-friendly diet. A diet that helps reduce weight and lower the blood sugar levels can still be enjoyable and healthy for the entire family. Managing portion sizes and eating on time are equally important. A nutritionist can guide you towards a healthy diabetic-friendly meal plan.
- Get active to beat a sedentary life. Physical activity is essential to prevent and manage type-2 diabetes. Research suggests that resistant training exercise can increase insulin action by 46% in type-2 diabetic patients. Further studies confirm that aerobic training could improve insulin sensitivity and insulin action. An active lifestyle can also help beat obesity, a common factor linked to increased risks of diabetes.
- Support treatment programs. Managing diabetes requires regular monitoring and diligently following a treatment plan.You can support this by following up or helping with regular checkups, stocking up medication, and accompanying them for the scheduled appointments.
- Offer emotional support. Switching to a healthy lifestyle and managing diabetes could be a stressful experience, especially when first diagnosed. And increased stress can elevate sugar levels in the bloodstream and elevate the symptoms further. So, help them ease into this transition with small incremental steps. Avoid pressurizing them to make drastic lifestyle changes and instead accompany them through the journey.
And if you’re genetically related
“Type 2 diabetes has a stronger link to family history and lineage than type 1,” says the American Diabetes Association. This means if diabetes runs in your family, then you are at risk of developing it.
However, being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes is often the result of a combination of genetics and lifestyle choices. “For most people who have diabetes, it is not due to a straight genetic group of factors or to environmental ones, but rather it is a combination of both,” certified and licensed genetic counselor Mónica Alvarado told Everyday Health.
So what can you do? While there is nothing you can do about altering your genetics, you can certainly switch to a healthier lifestyle to improve your chances of warding off type-2 diabetes. Increase physical activity, adopt a healthy and balanced diet, maintain 7–9 hours of sleep, minimize stress, and avoid smoking.
Also watch out for early warning signs such as an unusual level of dehydration, excessive urination, increased hunger, fatigue, weight loss, or delayed healing of wounds. And even if you do not encounter any of these symptoms, ensure that you get yourself tested regularly.