As obesity explodes around the world, type 2 diabetes is following close behind. Here’s what you need to know about this common chronic illness, including some surprising risk factors and unusual ways to protect yourself.
1.A BIG BABY CAN CAUSE MORE THAN A DIFFICULT LABOR
According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, giving birth to a baby nine pounds or larger puts you at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Women who are diagnose with gestational diabetes tend to put on more weight during pregnancy and give birth to larger babies, but a baby of above average weight is a risk factor with or without gestational diabetes.
2.MOST CASES OF TYPE 2 DIABETES CAN BE REVERSED
A little-known fact about this kind of diabetes is that most cases are treatable.
“The biggest misconception is that type 2 diabetes should simply be managed,” says Joel Kahn, MD, founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity.
“But my goal with these patients is to reverse and eliminate their diabetic state through whole food, plant-based, low-fat diets, exercise, and supplements leading to weight control.”
He adds that this approach really works for many of his patients and that “it’s better to be an ex-type 2 diabetic than a well-managed one.
3.GENETICS PLAY A (SUPPORTING) ROLE
Just as with several other diseases and conditions, genetics can contribute to type 2 diabetes risk.
Even if a close family member has type 2 diabetes, you may not suffer the same fate.
Type 2 diabetes has a greater connection to diet and lifestyle than family history, although having a sibling or parent with the disease does increase your chances.
4.SUGAR ISN’T OFF LIMITS
Type 1 diabetes is directly related to how the body produces insulin and absorbs glucose.
So someone with type 1 diabetes has to closely watch their sugar intake.
By contrast, people with type 2 diabetes would want to limit sugar intake as part of an overall healthy diet and to help with weight loss and weight management.
“Certainly restricting the huge amount of added sugars in sodas and sweets, along with added fats in processed foods, is a win-win for prevention,” says Dr. Kahn.
And although sugar isn’t completely off the table.
As smart food choices and portion control both play major parts in managing or reversing type 2 diabetes.
5.TYPE 2 DIABETES RAISES THE RISK OF OTHER DISEASES AND CONDITIONS
Obesity and type 2 diabetes often go hand in hand.
But the development of type 2 diabetes also raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Kahn, which is the number one killer in the Western world.
Heart attack and stroke risk increase by two- to four-fold because “elevates blood sugar coats (and damages) arteries and nerves, which is associated with abnormalities of blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation,” Dr. Kahn says.
Don’t ignore these warning signs of stroke.
6.A TYPE 2 DIABETES DIAGNOSIS DOESN’T MEAN A CRASH DIET
You still enjoy most of the foods you love—within reason—if you have type 2 diabetes.
“My patients with type 2 diabetes are happy that they can eat large quantities of whole fruit, even mangoes, and papayas if they restrict added oils and dietary fats,” says Dr. Kahn.
“By eliminating the added fats, they regain insulin sensitivity and enjoy colorful and delicious healthy whole foods again.”
7.MANAGING DIABETES IS NOT JUST ABOUT DOING EXERCISE AND MAINTAINING HEALTH
Most of the diabetes information these days touts diet and exercise as the ticket to managing the illness.
While both of these are critical, they’re just two pieces of the puzzle of a healthy lifestyle.
According to Dr. Kahn, there is plenty of research to back adopting a Mediterranean or plant-based diet along with exercising regularly.
But he would add that getting adequate sleep and managing stress is just as important.