July 4, 2012
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Diabetes mellitus type II is a condition which arises when the body makes insufficient insulin to metabolise the glucose ingested in food or, more uncommonly, the cells in the body do not react to insulin – this is called insulin resistance. Because some insulin is produced (unlike type I where none is produced at all) people with type II diabetes can often control it with diet and careful monitoring of glucose levels. It is progressive, though, so eventually many people will find they have to start taking tablets in conjunction with diet.
It is not possible to be able to totally guarantee that a person won’t develop type II diabetes, but it is possible to reduce their likelihood of developing it by making sure that they keep their weight down. The current problem of obesity in the developed world today means that type II diabetes is becoming more common and many GPs and family practitioners make a glucose test part of any health check they carry out, as a matter of routine. If this is raised, it is usually followed up by a fasting glucose and then a glucose tolerance test, where a loading dose of glucose is administered and a series of blood glucose levels performed. The resulting curve shows how the body copes with the sugar and can be all the diagnostic tools needed.
There are other predisposing factors other than weight, but these are not something in the person’s remit to address – nonetheless, they are used as tools to check a person’s likelihood of developing type II diabetes and include race, age and family history. If a person has suffered from gestational diabetes – high blood sugar when pregnant or sometimes even just a history of delivering larger than average babies – this can also be a factor. It can be quite scary to be told you have diabetes, but with reasonable care, it shouldn’t make too much of an impact on everyday life. The obvious change will almost certainly be diet, which should include fresh food as much as possible, with not too much refined sugar. You will have to check your blood sugar regularly and also attend a diabetes clinic at intervals for more intensive blood tests as well as foot and retinal examinations, as one of the commonest side effects of diabetes is circulatory.
Self-care is all important and can also be considered as a preventative measure if you have been assessed as likely to develop type II diabetes. Giving up smoking is one of the first things you will be advised to do and although this sounds easy, any smoker will be quick to say that it isn’t easy at all. It is very important though, so you should give it your best shot. Cutting down alcohol to a minimum is also wise – there are government guidelines as to an acceptable level of alcohol and keeping below this still gives plenty of leeway – however, for anyone who has already developed type II diabetes it is important to remember to include it in your diet when you keep your food diary.