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Five Ways to Control Type 2 Diabetes

Proven strategies for achieving tight glucose control – and avoiding dangerous complications.
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WebMD Magazine - Feature

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 blood glucose levels -- by eating right and exercising, for instance -- pays off big time.

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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.

Increase your activity. “I avoid the word ‘exercise.’ Exercise is fantastic, but it’s very difficult for people to do, at least initially, and sustain. But everyone can add activity to their daily lives,” Snow says.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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70-130
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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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