NYU Langone doctors work with people of all ages to help them prevent type 2 diabetes, a serious condition in which a person has chronically high levels of blood glucose, or sugar. Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in the United States. Since 2010, the number of people in the U.S. who have diabetes has grown to more than 29 million people. Type 2 diabetes is also on the rise in children and adolescents.
Normally, the body breaks down the sugars and starches in food into glucose. As glucose levels rise in the bloodstream, the pancreas responds by making insulin—a hormone that signals the body to use and store glucose to supply cells with energy.
In people with type 2 diabetes, the body is less responsive to insulin, and the pancreas can’t make enough of the hormone to prevent blood sugar levels from rising. This causes a buildup of glucose in the blood. When there’s too much sugar in the blood, cells can’t function properly.
Just as rust can eventually damage your car, high blood sugar levels can lead to widespread blood vessel and nerve damage. Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can injure organs and tissues throughout the body, such as the heart, kidneys, eyes, and feet.
Your doctor may screen for type 2 diabetes during your regular checkup. Depending on your risk of developing this condition, your doctor may recommend screening every three years or more often.
Screening is performed with a fasting blood sugar test. This test measures blood sugar levels after you’ve fasted for several hours, usually overnight. Doctors can also use a hemoglobin A1C blood test—which measures blood sugar levels over a two- or three-month period—to screen for type 2 diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommends screening for type 2 diabetes beginning at age 45. Screening may begin earlier if you are overweight or have other risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
If the results are normal, the test is repeated during your annual checkup. If you have high blood sugar levels but not diabetes, your doctor may recommend more frequent testing.
If you’re overweight or obese, older than age 45, and have other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, endocrinologists and other specialists at NYU Langone, including doctors at the Weight Management Program, can help you make lifestyle changes to prevent the condition.
To control blood sugar levels, it’s important to follow a diet that’s low in simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, white bread, potatoes, rice, cookies, and sugary drinks, such as soda. These are considered to be high-glycemic foods and trigger a spike in blood sugar levels.
Low-glycemic foods, on the other hand, enable the pancreas to release insulin slowly and steadily, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels. They include vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
Alcohol—including wine, beer, and many sweet cocktails—may contain a significant amount of sugar. Doctors advise limiting your alcohol intake or avoiding it altogether.
Our doctors advise limiting saturated fats, which are found in meat and some dairy products, and trans fats, which are found in many fried foods and packaged snacks. Doing so can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease, both of which are often higher in people with type 2 diabetes.
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight is one of the most effective ways to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.
An NYU Langone registered dietitian can create a realistic meal plan to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. NYU Langone’s Weight Management Program offers treatment and support for people who are coping with obesity.
Exercise—especially the kind that increases your heart rate—helps you lose weight by converting glucose into energy instead of storing it, which increases fat. Working out regularly lowers blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and helping the body use glucose efficiently.
Your doctor can develop an exercise plan tailored to your fitness level to help you improve your strength and endurance over time.