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
- 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
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.