By Amanda Godsey, FNP-C

Amanda Godsey, FNP-CLet's acknowledge how difficult it can be as health care providers to explain diabetes to a patient and for the patient to comprehend all the information they need to know regarding diabetes once diagnosed in just one office visit.

Now, I understand we can bring them back to the office for follow-up visits as much as possible and refer them to a nutritionist to help educate them better about their diet. We have all done this in providing patient care for our diabetic patients. But what we really need to do is educate people about how to prevent this dreaded disease and all the problems it brings with it.

First, what is diabetes? There are two types of diabetes that we commonly diagnose - Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 we have no control over. It involves the body's inability to produce insulin. Patients with type 1 will require insulin injections or an insulin pump throughout their lifetime. Type 1 is typically diagnosed early in life.

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, and when diagnosed, we can have control over it in many cases. Type 2 can be managed by diet, exercise and may, or may not require insulin. In many cases oral medications are required if the condition cannot be controlled by diet and lifestyle changes alone.

With type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin to some extent. Insulin helps to control the glucose (sugar) level in our bodies Type 2 diabetes can also be hereditary. That doesn't mean that if your mother or father has (or had) type 2 diabetes, you're guaranteed to develop it; instead, it means that you have a greater chance of developing type 2. Researchers know that you can inherit a risk for type 2 diabetes, but it's difficult to pinpoint which genes carry the risk. The medical community is hard at work trying to figure out the certain genetic mutations that lead to a risk of type 2.

Genes do play a role in type 2 diabetes, but lifestyle choices are also important. You can, for example, have a genetic mutation that may make you susceptible to type 2, but if you take good care of your body, you may not develop the disease.

If two people have the same genetic mutation, but one of them eats well, watches their cholesterol, and stays physically fit, and the other is overweight (BMI greater than 25) and inactive, the person who is overweight and inactive is much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes because certain lifestyle choices greatly influence how well your body uses insulin.

Patients with liver disease or who have a fatty liver are also at increased risk for developing diabetes since the liver deals with insulin production as well.

Lifestyle choices that affect the development of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Lack of exercise: Physical activity has many benefits - one of them being that it can help you avoid type 2 diabetes if you are susceptible.
  • Unhealthy meal planning choices: A meal plan filled with high-fat foods and lacking in fiber (which you can get from grains, vegetables and fruits) increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
  • Overweight/Obesity: Lack of exercise and unhealthy meal planning choices can lead to obesity or make it worse. Being overweight makes it more likely that you'll become insulin resistant and can also lead to many other health conditions.

It is important to eat healthier with less carbohydrates and junk food and exercise, even if it means just walking 30 minutes 4 times per week. That is a great start! The message is to get off the couch and become less sedentary in our lifestyles and replace couch time with healthy time to guard against type 2 diabetes!

*Resource: Endocrine web; Type 2 Diabetes Causes, Genetics and Lifestyle Choices Play a Role