By Karen Feldscher, a mom with 30 years of writing and editing experiece.
Type 2 diabetes — a chronic condition that interferes with the way your body processes sugar — is on the rise.
Nearly 27 million people in the United States have Type 2 diabetes. Nearly 2 million teens aged 12-19 have “pre-diabetes.” And experts say a teen’s risk of getting the disease is growing.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed. But it’s work. And if the disease is not under control, there can be serious health problems, like heart disease, stroke, vision impairment, or kidney damage.
Why is diabetes such a problem? Part of it has to do with genetics; if one of your parents has the disease, you may come down with it, too. But another big reason is the growing problem of obesity. Many studies have shown that being too heavy can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Certain ethnic groups, such as Native Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, and Asian or Pacific Islanders are more prone to Type 2 as well.
Let’s look at Type 2 diabetes and its link with obesity. Excess fat can make your cells more resistant to insulin. And the proper regulation of insulin levels in your body is crucial when it comes to diabetes.
Here’s why: Normally, when you eat, your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream. The insulin enables glucose — the sugar in the food you eat, which is the main source of energy for your body — to enter your cells, while lowering the amount of sugar in your blood. As the level of sugar in your blood decreases, so does the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas.
But if you have Type 2 diabetes, the insulin process doesn’t work right. One of two things happens: either your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, or your cells become resistant to it. Either way, too much sugar builds up in your bloodstream.
Steer clear of Type 2 diabetes
Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating healthy food is key not only to preventing Type 2 diabetes, but also to being healthy in general — and feeling good.
It’s NOT true that too much sugar can cause Type 2 diabetes. But excess weight can — and too much sugar can certainly lead to excess weight!
Know The Symptoms
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes aren’t always clear, and the disease can take a while to develop. But if you find yourself needing to pee a lot (the body tries to get rid of extra blood sugar through the urine), drinking a lot of fluids to compensate, and feeling tired, you definitely should see your primary care provider, who may refer you to a pediatric endocrinologist, a physician who specializes in diseases of the endocrine system (hormones and glands). There are other symptoms as well, such as darkened areas of skin on the neck and under the arms. Your doctor will probably try to manage the illness through diet and pills, and check your blood sugar on a regular basis. Depending on your case, occasionally insulin shots or an insulin pump are also used to help maintain blood sugar levels.
Type 1 vs. Type 2 diabetes
So, what’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?
Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, your body still makes insulin but the body doesn’t respond normally to this insulin, making blood sugar levels high. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin; the body’s own immune system destroys pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is not as common as Type 2 diabetes. You can get Type 1 when you’re a teen as well, but it can also develop at any age.
Even if you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, don’t hesitate to find other teens who can provide support. Listen to your doctors, dietitian and parents, even if it seems that they’re constantly nagging you. You’re not alone in this diagnosis, and if you take care of your body, your body will thank you.
The bottom line: eat a balanced diet, get lots of exercise, and pay attention to your health.
This article has been reviewed by BodiMojo health expert Dr. Karen Devaney.
Last reviewed Nov 10, 2014.