Type 2 diabetes mellitus used to be called over-40 diabetes to separate it from type 1 or juvenile diabetes. Not anymore, though, because type 2 shows up in children now.
The two types of diabetics are not equally divided. Less than 10% of diabetics are type 1. That means the vast majority of diabetics have type 2.
New research says that there may be other types and subtypes of diabetes, but this page is about the two we are most familiar with.
From their old names it is clear that the age of onset used to be how people told them apart. But the cause is the real difference.
Children are sometimes born without working beta cells, but more often they lose them as kids, adolescents or adults.
Usually a disease or autoimmune disorder destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells are the main source of insulin, and if they are gone, type 1 diabetes is the result.
That's why type 1 diabetics inject insulin and they must do that several times a day for their entire lives. There is no such thing as getting off of insulin for a type 1 diabetic, at least not today.
People with type 2 diabetes have what doctors call a chronic condition, and its course can be affected by lifestyle changes. In type 2 the body's ability to change food into energy with insulin is fouled up.
That is usually because of insulin resistance in the beginning.
Over time insulin resistance seems to cause beta cells to wear out, and some die. When enough glucose has built up in your blood you become a type 2 diabetic.
As sugar levels remain high in your blood, early complications like neuropathy start to show up. But long before that happens you should be getting your blood sugar tested.
A fingerstick blood test is simple and can be done in a doctor's office in a few minutes. It is far better not to wait for the complications to become obvious before you get a fasting glucose test.
The transition from early insulin resistance to diabetes mellitus is slow, so if you are watching you can catch it early. Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, both conditions where the body is having trouble regulating blood sugar, might be early warning signs for you.
Type 2 is a growing problem everywhere. It used to be a disease of older people.
But doctors in India have documented type 2 diabetes in 10-year-old children. This is a growing health problem that is costing us dearly in money and in people's lives.
The World Health Organization is looking at the possibility of seeing diabetes in a tenth of the world population by the year 2030. In the USA the number of diabetics grew from 6.7 million in 1989 to 25.8 million in 2010.
What is it that makes a person into a type 2 diabetic? In the USA many blame obesity. But look at statistics world wide and you'll see that it's not that simple. Who has the most type 2 diabetics?
India is number one. China is second, and the U.S. is third. Type 2 diabetes is growing in Bangladesh, the poorest country in the
world, and among the aborigines of Australia. Obesity has never been a major problem there.
Diet companies and well-meaning doctors often over-simplify. Obesity is one of the things found in common with about 80% of type 2 diabetics. If it was the cause it should be in all of them. Some researchers think that inflammation may be the cause, and obesity is one of the symptoms.
One thing is sure. Type 2 diabetes is a growing epidemic world wide, and nobody agrees on why. There is not one cause that anyone can put a finger on. But we do know which people are most at risk for type 2.
Look at your family. Was a parent diagnosed with it? Your chance of becoming diabetic is much higher. If you're interested in numbers, it might be 50% to 75% depending on whose statistics you are reading.
Statistics for twins with diabetes are odd. If one twin has type 1 diabetes, the other twin has a 50% chance of having it also. But in type 2 diabetes if one twin develops it, the other twin has a 75% chance of getting it too.
Next look at your genetic background. For some reason African Americans, American Indians, Asians and Hispanics have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Nobody knows why, but it may be genetics compounded by other things we don't know about yet.
Then there is age. If you're over 45 your risk of getting type 2 diabetes just rose. Then when you hit 65, it rises again to a one in four chance.
There is nothing you can do about that. Getting older is not something you can avoid.
Do you notice what is in common with all these risks? You cannot do anything about family history, genetics or aging. And there are a few more things on the list.
A history of polycystic ovarian disease or gestational diabetes in women, and a past history of stroke add to the chances of becoming a type 2 diabetic later.
According to the news, nurses and others who work third shift have a higher risk of becoming type 2 diabetics.
What you can do about those risks is test your blood sugar. Get fingerstick tests regularly. Do not just wait and see, because type 2 diabetes has no obvious symptoms at first.
The risk factors you may be familiar with - high blood pressure, inactivity, high cholesterol/triglycerides, being overweight - belong to the metabolic syndrome.
Perhaps your doctor talks about these risk factors more because there are medications and diets they can recommend.
Doctors also know that becoming active and being on a good diet can reverse insulin resistance and lower high blood sugar.
There is proof
that type 2 diabetics can avoid using insulin and even get off of
oral medications because they lose weight and start exercising every day. Prediabetics have avoided type 2 diabetes altogether with these lifestyle changes.
Whether they are cured or simply controlling diabetes with diet and exercise it holds out hope for all of us with type 2.
There were probably 79 million prediabetics in the U.S. in 2010. The problem is that a large number of them did not know it yet.
If you think you might be diabetic or you found yourself in one of the risk categories, get a fasting blood test. It is the best thing you can do for yourself. Do not wait like I did until a complication knocks you down.
The best advice? Begin doing the exercise and eating habit changes that will
keep you from becoming a statistic in type 2 diabetes.
[Go back to the top.]Return to the home page for a diabetic life from type 2 diabetes
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