How to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

How to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Almost 30 million Americans now have type 2 diabetes (T2D), and the number will continue to rise since tens of millions more already have pre-diabetes. Though the incidence, and risk, of T2D rises with age, the number of younger adults diagnosed with T2D continues to rise, driven by an obesity epidemic that respects no demographic boundaries. Some diabetics will successfully reverse their disease if they take aggressive action early enough, but others will have to learn how to manage T2D long term.

How does T2D risk change with age?

As people age, their metabolism often slows because muscle mass decreases in response to a more sedentary lifestyle. If food portions are not appropriately monitored and downsized, visceral fat increases, and with it systemic inflammation and decreased insulin sensitivity. The pancreas responds by pumping out more insulin, but if the sensitivity of muscle and liver cells to it is not reestablished, blood glucose remains chronically elevated, eventually causing a host of complications: neuropathy, kidney disease, loss of vision, heart disease, stroke, and dementia.

Obesity is now more prevalent in teens and young adults than it was a generation ago; consequently, T2D has become more common in young adults, raising the likelihood of long-term T2D complications unless blood glucose is carefully and consistently managed. For all age groups, developing a sustained partnership with their medical provider will be the cornerstone of long-term T2D management, and for many, diabetes medications and regular A1C hemoglobin testing will become a part of life.

How do you manage T2D properly?

Optimum management of T2D requires a proactive approach on the part of the diabetic. It is necessary to reverse established patterns of sedentary behavior and improve diet.  You must:

  • Do strength training. Control of blood glucose is improved by building more actively metabolizing tissue: muscle! So join a gym, or buy some dumbbells, resistance bands, maybe even a kettlebell, and get moving. A gym can be very motivating, and you are more likely to continue exercising if you find reinforcement in others with the same goal. The gym also provides opportunities to socialize, and that is key for long-term mental health and compliance.
  • Do aerobic exercise several times per week. Walking is great, but you can also cycle or swim. Most importantly, find an activity, or range of activities, you enjoy, and do them every day.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Inadequate sleep and insulin resistance go hand in hand.
  • Allow time for relaxation. Meditate, or learn yoga to relieve stress; it’s also great for your flexibility!
  • Dial in your diet, and monitor it carefully, along with your blood glucose. You may need to learn proper portion control and glycemic index, and how to implement them in your dietary planning to manage blood glucose and elicit an appropriate insulin response. Eat a diet high in fiber and phytonutrient content. Ask your healthcare provider about the Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet, and whether they are appropriate for you.

You can win the war against type 2 diabetes, but you will need to be persistent and honest with yourself. You must be willing to learn and to change.