Know Your Numbers: Knowing your ABCs—A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol—are important in reducing your risk for diabetes and keeping your diabetes in good control. If you are someone with diabetes who has elevated blood pressure or cholesterol, you are increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Your physician will give you your A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol targets. Make sure you pay attention to them and understand what they mean and why they are important.
Type 2 diabetes typically starts with insulin resistance. That is, the cells of the body resist insulin’s efforts to escort glucose into the cells. What causes insulin resistance? It appears to be caused by an accumulation of microscopic fat particles within muscle and liver cells.4 This fat comes mainly from the diet—chicken fat, beef fat, cheese fat, fish fat, and even vegetable fat. To try to overcome insulin resistance, the pancreas produces extra insulin. When the pancreas can no longer keep up, blood sugar rises. The combination of insulin resistance and pancreatic cell failure leads to type 2 diabetes.
The food that people eat provides the body with glucose, which is used by the cells as a source of energy. If insulin isn't available or doesn't work correctly to move glucose from the blood into cells, glucose will stay in the blood. High blood glucose levels are toxic, and cells that don't get glucose are lacking the fuel they need to function properly.
One of the key factors in Joslin’s treatment of diabetes is tight blood glucose control, so be certain that your treatment helps get your blood glucose readings as close to normal as safely possible. Patients should discuss with their doctors what their target blood glucose range is. It is also important to determine what your goal is for A1C readings (a test that determines how well your diabetes is controlled over the past 2-3 months). By maintaining blood glucose in the desired range, you’ll likely avoid many of the complications some people with diabetes face.
The World Health Organization recommends testing those groups at high risk and in 2014 the USPSTF is considering a similar recommendation. High-risk groups in the United States include: those over 45 years old; those with a first degree relative with diabetes; some ethnic groups, including Hispanics, African-Americans, and Native-Americans; a history of gestational diabetes; polycystic ovary syndrome; excess weight; and conditions associated with metabolic syndrome. The American Diabetes Association recommends screening those who have a BMI over 25 (in people of Asian descent screening is recommended for a BMI over 23).
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) resembles type 2 DM in several respects, involving a combination of relatively inadequate insulin secretion and responsiveness. It occurs in about 2–10% of all pregnancies and may improve or disappear after delivery. However, after pregnancy approximately 5–10% of women with GDM are found to have DM, most commonly type 2. GDM is fully treatable, but requires careful medical supervision throughout the pregnancy. Management may include dietary changes, blood glucose monitoring, and in some cases, insulin may be required.
But preventing the disease from progressing if you already have it requires first being able to spot the signs and symptoms of diabetes when they appear. While some type 2 diabetes symptoms may not ever show up, you can watch out for the following common signs of the disease and alert your doctor, especially if you have any of the common risk factors for diabetes. Also keep in mind that while most signs of type 2 diabetes are the same in men and women, there are some distinctions.