Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is a slowly progressive condition with very subtle signs and symptoms. By the time it is diagnosed, damage to blood vessels of the heart, eyes or kidneys are already present. The good news is, the development of type 2 diabetes is preventable to a certain extent.
All good preventative strategies start with identification of individuals who would be at risk for developing the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has a risk test which looks at age, gender, family history, weight, physical activity and presence of other associated conditions. In general, risk increases with age and is higher in those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, history of heart disease, history of gestational diabetes, history of polycystic ovary syndrome, sedentary lifestyle, and in certain race/ethnic groups (African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander descent). Smoking, sleep patterns, nutrient deficiencies and certain medications can also contribute. The presence of these risk factors will prompt your doctor to do laboratory testing for diagnosis and start preventative care.
What is the key to prevention? You guessed it. It is lifestyle modification. Studies consistently show that behavioral changes and weight loss with proper diet and regular physical activity slow the progression of pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes. Medications such as metformin also help to prevent progression and are used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Team-based care utilizing primary care clinicians, diabetes specialists, nutritionists, educators, and the patient’s family members is essential. The team approach helps to prevent development of type 2 diabetes or prevent worsening of the condition if already present.