These days, when I must give one of my patients the bad news that he or she has type 2 diabetes, the response is sometimes along the lines of “Well, I figured it was just a matter of time before that happened.”
Many people suspect they are on a collision course with type 2 diabetes, but don’t know how to steer clear of it. Many others have diabetes but don’t know how to control it.
Before going any farther, let me clarify that I am talking about type 2 diabetes, what used to be called adult-onset and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. It begins when muscle cells have trouble responding to insulin, a hormone that ushers glucose (blood sugar) into cells. Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset and insulin-dependent diabetes) is a different story. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages insulin-making cells in the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% of all cases of diabetes. It is also on the rise. Fifty years ago, about 1.6 million Americans had type 2 diabetes. Today, nearly 20 million have been diagnosed with it, and almost half again as many have type 2 diabetes but don’t know it.
Living with a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes can be confusing. We have created Diabetes: A plan you can live with to provide a clear road map for people with this condition. This updated Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publishing covers the basics of living with type 2 diabetes, from monitoring blood sugar and managing medications to losing weight and working with health-care providers. A separate report, Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes, covers strategies for eating well with type 2 diabetes, and offers 40 recipes that follow the healthy eating guidelines the report describes.
As my colleague Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says in Diabetes: A plan you can live with, “It’s not just possible to live with diabetes; it’s possible to live well.”