About two years ago, when Anne Tierney learned she had type 2 diabetes, it galvanized her. “My diagnosis came as a shock,” says Tierney, who was then about 40 pounds overweight. “I used to eat chocolate all the time. The day I was diagnosed, I quit.” She also consulted a nutritionist and hired a personal trainer. “I knew I had to take action,” recalls Tierney, 51, director of corporate gifts for Halls Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Her action plan was in keeping with the latest research on diabetes, which shows that taking early and aggressive steps to achieve tight control of your bloodglucose levels -- by eating right and exercising, for instance -- pays off big time.
Does the light touch of a bed sheet make your feet burn? Does your heart sometimes race when you’re resting? Do you have problems with sexual arousal?
As different as these symptoms are, they can all have the same cause: diabetic nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy. About half of people with diabetes develop nerve damage. The two most common forms are:
peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves that serve the farthest reaches of the body, such as the legs and hands;
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the body’s ability to effectively use insulin, an important hormone that enables blood sugar to enter the body’s cells and be converted to energy. The result is an elevated level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood, which damages the body.
Type 2 diabetes in America
Early diagnosis and fast action are best. An estimated 20.8 million people, or 7% of the U.S. population, currently have the disease, but of that total, only 14.6 million know it. This is because type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed years after its onset, giving the disease a head start in causing damage. The result? Serious complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, erectile dysfunction, infections, and more.
According to Kenneth Snow, MD, acting chief of the adult diabetes section at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible may prevent or slow the progress of these complications. Snow offers five key steps you can take right now to help achieve this goal.
Lose 10 pounds. “More than 80% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are obese, but people find the idea of losing 40 or 50 pounds daunting. Just losing 10 pounds is doable and will have a huge impact on blood glucose levels,” Snow says.
There are two dietary keys to achieving this goal, he says: Making wise choices about what you eat and limiting portion size. “Spend a little time weighing and measuring your food to learn how much you’re eating. Read the labels. People see that a serving size of cereal is 110 calories, so they just pour it into a large bowl and figure they’re eating 110 calories when they are really eating about 350,” he says.
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