Diabetes is a global problem and is considered as one of the largest epidemics in human history. Almost 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and 40% of American adults will develop diabetes in ther lifetime. This is largely due to the rise in obesity, which is another global epidemic but more common in developed nations.
The key to effectively treating, managing and even preventing diabetes depends on several factors. One of the most important of these factors is to diagnose pre-diabetes as early as possible. However, with prompt treatment and ongoing management, prevention is better than cure as is the case for most diseases. The fact is that most cases of of the more common type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, are preventable.
How To Test for Diabetes
Diagnosing prediabetes or diabetes requires confirming elevated blood glucose levels. This can also be done by confirming the presence of glucose in the urine. A random or fasting blood glucose test and urinary dipstick test may be used to diagnose diabetes. However, two other tests are considered to be more reliable and accurate.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is considered the gold standard for diagnosing diabetes. This means that the results are reliable and accurate and will confirm or exclude diabetes. The test involves having two blood samples taken.
- First a blood sample is taken to meaure the fasting glucose level. A person should have fasted for at least 8 hours prior.
- Then a glucose solution containing 75 grams (2.6 ounces) of sugar has to be consumed.
- Lastly another blood sample is taken 2 hours after administering the glucose solution in order to test the blood glucose levels at this point.
The results will indicate whether a person has a normal glucose tolerance, prediabetes or diabetes.
Read more on blood glucose levels for oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) results.
A1C (HbA1C) Blood Test
The A1C, also known as the HbA1C, blood test is another reliable diagnostic investigation. It can be used to diagnose diabetes but is also very useful in monitoring diabetes. The A1C test measures the amount of glucose within red blood cells that accumulates within the previous 2 to 3 months.
Only a single blood sample is taken and unlike other tests, the results do not fluctuate within minutes and hours. The A1C blood test is now the preferred option for diagnosing and monitoring prediabetes and diabetes.
Read more on facts about the A1c blood test.
How to Prevent Diabetes
Of the two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, only type 2 diabetes is preventable to a large degree. Type 1 diabetes appears to be due to a combination of factors, such as genetics and environmental factors. This causes the immune system to abnormally attack and destro the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. However, the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown.
Type 2 diabetes is also due to combinaton of factors. Many of these factors are modifiable which means that it can be changed, reduced or avoided. Therefore type 2 diabetes can be prevented. However, some people can still develop type 2 diabetes even by taking all of the known preventative measures. This is largely due to a strong family history which cannot be altered.
Of the multitude of risk factors that have been identified for type 2 diabetes, one factor stands out as significant in modern times – obesity. The higher the body weight above the normal BMI threshold, the greater the risk of diabetes. A large abdominal circumference (girth) due to abdominal obesity is another major risk factor even if the BMI (body mass index) is very high.
Weight reduction is therefore paramount to reducing type 2 diabetes risk. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle (with or without obesity) also plays a role. Together with a calorie-restricted diet, regular exercise (at least 150 minutes weekly) can prevent obesity as well as diabetes. Age, ethnicity and certain conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Read more on preventing diabetes.
How to Treat and Manage Diabetes
The treatment of diabetes depends on several factors. Diabetes drugs like metformin act by reducing blood glucose levels. These drugs need to be taken daily. However, in type 1 diabetes and long term (particularly uncontrolled) type 2 diabetes, insulin is necessary. A synthetic form of insulin is administered to replace the lack of insulin that is normally produced by the pancreas.
Diabetes is an incurable disease and treatment only helps to improve glucose control. Diet and lifestyle is crucial in treating and managing diabetes. As with the antidiabetes drugs, maintaining an optimal diet for a diabetic and execrising regularly can improve the way the body deals with glucose in the bloodstream.
How to Control Blood Glucose Levels
Apart from insulin and diabetes drugs, some of the important changes for treating and managng diabetes includes:
- Reduce daily calorie intake to a healthy level for individual needs. This will not only help improve glucose control but also assist with weight loss and maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Opt for low glycemic index (GI) foods. These foods should be consumed in small quantities as frequent meals rather than three large meals daily.
- Avoid foods that cause a spike in the blood glucose level. Usually this is processed foods and particularly fast-releasing carbohydrates.
- Exercise at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes per session. A combination of aerobic exercise (“cardio workouts”) and strength training is advisable.
It is imperative to consult with a registered dietitian for proper dietary advice on managing type 2 diabetes. The dietitian should collaborate with other medical professionals, like the family doctor or relevant specialist such as an endocrinologist, to ensure that each diabetes case is effectively managed. Apart from glucose control, a proper diet will also assist with weight loss if necessary.
Another very imporant factor in diabetes management is to have blood glucose levels monitored regularly. Diabetics should use glucose meters which provide a reading of the blood glucose level at the point when the blood sample is taken. Routine testing with investigations like the A1c test should also be undertaken to ensure that the blood glucose levels are being maintained within a normal range over a 2 to 3 month period.