But preventing the disease from progressing if you already have it requires first being able to spot the signs and symptoms of diabetes when they appear. While some type 2 diabetes symptoms may not ever show up, you can watch out for the following common signs of the disease and alert your doctor, especially if you have any of the common risk factors for diabetes. Also keep in mind that while most signs of type 2 diabetes are the same in men and women, there are some distinctions.
The first step to treating diabetes is testing to determine if a person has the condition in the first place. Routine screening of type 2 diabetes is recommended after the age of 45 by the American Diabetes Association, especially for overweight individuals. Those who are living a sedentary lifestyle or have complicating risks for cardiovascular disease or other metabolic diseases are more likely to be screened earlier. After determining if a patient has diabetes, a physician will usually recommend they undergo a lifestyle change towards healthy diet and exercise, but most people also require the help of diabetes medications and insulin therapy.
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^ Cheng J, Zhang W, Zhang X, Han F, Li X, He X, Li Q, Chen J (May 2014). "Effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular deaths, and cardiovascular events in patients with diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis". JAMA Internal Medicine. 174 (5): 773–85. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.348. PMID 24687000.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) resembles type 2 DM in several respects, involving a combination of relatively inadequate insulin secretion and responsiveness. It occurs in about 2–10% of all pregnancies and may improve or disappear after delivery. However, after pregnancy approximately 5–10% of women with GDM are found to have DM, most commonly type 2. GDM is fully treatable, but requires careful medical supervision throughout the pregnancy. Management may include dietary changes, blood glucose monitoring, and in some cases, insulin may be required.
Though not routinely used any longer, the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is a gold standard for making the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. It is still commonly used for diagnosing gestational diabetes and in conditions of pre-diabetes, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. With an oral glucose tolerance test, the person fasts overnight (at least eight but not more than 16 hours). Then first, the fasting plasma glucose is tested. After this test, the person receives an oral dose (75 grams) of glucose. There are several methods employed by obstetricians to do this test, but the one described here is standard. Usually, the glucose is in a sweet-tasting liquid that the person drinks. Blood samples are taken at specific intervals to measure the blood glucose.
Some research, however, suggests a more drastic dietary change. A 2017 literature review concluded that “whole-foods, plant-based diet—legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products—are highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.” A 2018 study found that overweight people who switched to a vegan diet for 16 weeks showed improvements in insulin sensitivity compared to a control group.
The old “bring people to the table” metaphor rang especially egregious to the artist and writer Anasa Troutman, who had a similarly revelatory vision for wellness: “Unless we’re willing to make a commitment to community, we will never be well. Even if you wake up every morning and drink your juice and do your yoga, without that commitment to each other we will not be well as a country and as a world,” Troutman said.
People with diabetes are unable to control the level of sugar in their blood, usually due to a breakdown in how their bodies use the hormone insulin. It’s not completely clear how obesity can contribute to diabetes, but it is known that excess weight is associated with chronic inflammation and a dysfunctional metabolism. And these factors in turn make it easier for someone to stop responding to the presence of insulin as easily as they once did. So by using surgery to help very obese people with diabetes lose weight, the logic goes, you can indirectly treat or prevent the condition. But doctors such as David Cummings, a senior investigator at the University of Washington’s Diabetes & Obesity Center of Excellence, are pushing back against this way of thinking.