Millions of American women are living with type 2 diabetes, and millions more are at risk of developing it.
The number of new cases will continue to rise along with obesity rates—one of the major risk factors—unless more women adopt healthier habits, which include a healthy diet and regular exercise.
- Stay active with 30 minutes of exercise every day
- Plan your meals and watch portion sizes
- Enjoy whole grain alternatives to fatty, sugary foods
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes include excessive thirst, unexplained fatigue, frequent urination and blurred vision. Keep in mind, however, that many women don’t experience these warning signs or confuse them with another condition.
“This is why so many women don’t even realize they have type 2 diabetes until they go to the doctor with a complication of the disease, such as neuropathy,” said Athena Philis-Tsimikas, MD, corporate vice president of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute.
The major risk factors for type 2 diabetes are heredity and obesity, but hypothyroidism, steroid therapies and some medications may increase risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 60 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Risk also increases with aging.
Type 2 diabetes can be especially difficult for perimenopausal and menopausal women. Hormonal fluctuations make it more difficult to control blood sugar; elevated blood sugar makes it easier to pick up infections, especially yeast infections. Hormone shifts can increase food cravings, leading to indulgences women living with diabetes should avoid.
A blood glucose screening is recommended for overweight women who have one or more additional risk factors, such as a family history of diabetes.
“Women without risk factors should be tested at age 45, with follow-up tests every three years to be sure blood sugar levels are in a safe range,” said Dr. Tsimikas.
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