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What is Type 2 Diabetes and How Does it Affect the Body?

If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, take a deep breath.  Meds, fingersticks and new health behaviors can feel overwhelming. We’re here to help.
Let’s cover the basics.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body processes blood sugar, or glucose. Your body uses glucose for energy or stores it for later use. Your body uses the hormone insulin to turn blood sugar into energy.
With type 2 diabetes, your body resists the effects of insulin. That causes glucose to build up in your blood. This is known as high blood sugar. If high blood sugar isn’t lowered, it causes damage to the body over time.
Diabetes symptoms can vary depending on how high your blood is, but symptoms can include increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision. Some people may not experience symptoms but are diagnosed based on results from a blood test.

Getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes

A simple blood test, called an A1C test, can indicate if you have diabetes. An A1C test measures your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months. An A1C below 5.7% is considered normal, between 5.7 and 6.4% indicates you have prediabetes, and 6.5% or higher indicates you have diabetes.
A random blood sugar test can also be used to confirm a type 2 diabetes. This test uses a fingerstick and glucose meter to measure blood sugar. A blood sugar level between 140 to 199 mg/dL is considered prediabetes. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher can confirm you have diabetes.

Managing type 2 diabetes after a diagnosis

It’s upsetting to get a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. You might feel shock, anger, or even shame. But type 2 diabetes isn’t your fault. Genetic factors, mixed with some lifestyle factors, have likely triggered it.
Coping with a new diagnosis can take time, but it’s clear you’re here to learn and take action. Your doctor may have given you a diabetes plan where you manage your diabetes through exercise and diet. Or, you may also have to incorporate medication into your plan.
With a type 2 diagnosis, you may think that meds, fingersticks, and frustrating diets are the best you can hope for. That once you have diabetes, there’s no going back. But diabetes remission can be possible. With a commitment to an active, healthy lifestyle, many people with type 2 diabetes may be able to reduce their A1C to the level of someone without diabetes (less than 6.5%). This means no more diabetes medications and a future of life without diabetes in the way.

There’s a lot to consider when you get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Here are a few tips that can help.

Try not to get overwhelmed.

There can be a steep learning curve about blood sugar, medications, and incorporating healthy behaviors. But little changes can have a big impact; and today, there are new approaches can make diabetes remission possible. It can be very empowering to know that a different future–without diabetes—is possible.

You can’t ignore type 2 diabetes.

Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can cause some significant complications. It’s better to manage diabetes than risk facing these complications. For example, you might not be experiencing symptoms, but high blood pressure can be working behind the scenes to cause some serious damage to your body.

Know your numbers.

Testing your blood sugar frequently with fingersticks (as directed by your doctor) is important. Your glucose number can help you identify and treat when your levels are high or low, help you monitor effects of diabetes medications and you can track your progress in reaching your overall treatment goals.

Today, new diabetes devices called continuous glucose monitors (CGM) are making it easier to see your glucose levels in real time – without fingersticks. For many people with diabetes, wearing a CGM can fuel small, yet powerful changes in diabetes management.

Small changes can lead to big results.

There are many healthy habits you can start to help manage diabetes. But if you want to achieve success, start small. If you don’t exercise regularly, start incrementally. Walk around the block a couple of times during the day – every day. If your diet is routinely filled with pizza, burgers and fried chicken, try swapping a second helping of pizza for a side salad or French fries for a side of vegetables. Small changes can have an impact and you are more likely to stick to them over time.