In 2011, the American Diabetes Association reported that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States were living with diabetes, type 2 being the most prevalent. This number continues to increase.
While in most instances type 2 diabetes can be prevented, nearly 30% of those at risk don’t seek treatment. Pulse spoke with
Dr. Cynthia Ro, a practicing endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism specialist with the
Torrance Memorial Physician Network, for more details on prevention.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
DR. RO: Although the exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not clear, it is generally thought that it occurs in genetically predisposed people who are exposed to various environmental influences. In addition, other behavioral and environmental factors increase risk, such as obesity, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.
What are the most common symptoms of diabetes?
DR. RO: A newly diagnosed diabetic patient may experience a change in vision, as glucose can affect blood vessel growth in the eyes. Other symptoms can include:
- excessive thirst and urination
- dry mouth
- weight loss due to dehydrationIf the disease is severe enough, it can also lead to numbness in the extremities (most commonly the feet). If any of these symptoms occur, patients should see their doctors promptly, and a simple blood test can be performed.
Does type 2 diabetes typically affect one gender more than the other?
DR. RO: Both genders are affected, but it appears to be more common in women.
Are certain races or ethnicities more likely to get type 2 diabetes?
DR. RO: In the U.S., Hispanic and African American populations are largely affected. Again, this trend is thought to be a result of having certain genes that make someone more susceptible.
What type of diet do you recommend for people who are at risk and want to reverse their situation?
DR. RO: Patients who are at risk of developing diabetes or have already been diagnosed should receive individualized medical nutrition therapy to achieve treatment goals. The Torrance Memorial Specialty Center has a diabetes education and nutrition clinic for this very purpose. What exercises do you recommend for people looking to prevent a type 2 diabetes diagnosis?
DR. RO: Exercise is the single most important lifestyle intervention in diabetes. Any kind of aerobic exercise and strength training can positively impact diabetes. Walking is good for everyone, even those without diabetes, and our physicians encourage walking daily. You should speak with your doctor first before initiating an exercise program.
Does age affect one’s likelihood for getting type 2 diabetes?
DR. RO: As people age, they exercise less, gain more weight and lose muscle mass, all of which can negatively impact diabetes.
Can type 2 diabetes occur in children?
DR. RO: In the past, type 2 diabetes was rarely seen in children. Now obesity and type 2 diabetes rates in the U.S. have risen dramatically. When I see overweight children, most invariably they have overweight/obese parents. All parents and siblings should be involved in lifestyle modification, incorporating a well-balanced diet and exercise into their daily regimen.
Once diagnosed, can type 2 diabetes be cured or reversed?
DR. RO: In many situations, diabetes type 2 can be cured or reversed, especially if associated with being overweight. Any amount of weight loss improves blood sugars. I have seen many obese patients no longer require medications for diabetes after they lost enough weight. Daily exercise and better eating habits can improve diabetes control, in addition to benefiting all aspects of one’s health.