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Type 2 Diabetes: Explained

Am I at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes:

Taking Steps to Lower Your Risk of Getting Diabetes

What is type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. People with diabetes have problems converting food to energy. After a meal, food is broken down into a sugar called glucose, which is carried by the blood to cells throughout the body. Cells use the hormone insulin, made in the pancreas, to help them process blood glucose into energy. People develop type 2 diabetes because the cells in the muscles, liver, and fat do not use insulin properly. Eventually, the pancreas cannot make enough insulin for the body’s needs. As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood increases while the cells are starved of energy. Over the years, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections, and amputation.

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

Research has demonstrated that people at risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes by losing a little weight. The results of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) showed that moderate diet changes and physical activity can delay and prevent type 2 diabetes. Participants in this Federally funded study of 3,234 people at high risk for diabetes experienced a 5 to 7 percent weight loss. For example, a 5 to 7 percent weight loss for a 200-pound person would be 10 to 14 pounds. Study participants were overweight and had higher than normal levels of blood glucose, a condition called pre-diabetes, also called impaired glucose tolerance. Both pre-diabetes and obesity are strong risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Because of the high risk for diabetes among some minority groups, about half of the DPP participants were African American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, or Hispanic/Latino. DPP participants also included others at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, such as individuals aged 60 and older. The DPP tested two approaches to preventing diabetes: lifestyle change-a program of healthy eating and exercise-and the diabetes drug metformin. People in the lifestyle change group exercised about 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, usually by walking, and lowered their intake of fat and calories. Those who took the diabetes drug metformin received information on exercise and diet. A third group only received information on exercise and diet. The results showed that people in the lifestyle change group reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. In the first year of the study, people lost an average of 15 pounds. Lifestyle change was even more effective in those aged 60 and older. They reduced their risk by 71 percent. People receiving metformin reduced their risk by 31 percent.

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