A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. However, it doesn’t mean you need to stop living your life. In fact, with Type 2 Diabetes, you can still take control of your health by exercising and changing your diet. And if you have diabetes, you are not alone — a staggering 3 million Californians have diabetes, including 6.3% of Blue Shield of California’s 4.8 million members.
So, what’s the difference between Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes?
- Type 1 diabetes: The pancreas does not make enough or any insulin to help blood sugar enter the cells in the body to use as energy, so sugar builds up in the bloodstream.
- Type 2 diabetes: The cells don’t respond normally to insulin any longer, called insulin resistance, and eventually the pancreas can’t keep up, causing blood sugar to rise.
- Prediabetes: Blood sugar levels are higher than normal, thanks to insulin resistance, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes.
The good news is, through healthy lifestyle choices — from what you eat to how often you exercise — you can aim to avoid, manage or even reverse Type 2 diabetes.
“Simple lifestyle choices can keep prediabetes from turning into Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Zakir Halai, medical director at Blue Shield. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to restrict the amount that you eat. Instead, avoid processed foods, excessive sweets and red meat. At the same time, increase consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Modest exercise for 20 minutes, three to five days a week is helpful.”
Here are some more things you can do in your day-to-day life, with the help of Blue Shield and our Wellvolution program, to avoid, manage or reverse Type 2 diabetes.
Keep up with your annual exams.
At your annual preventive care visit, your doctor may check your A1C levels during the blood test portion of the exam. A1C is a blood test that measures average blood sugar over the past 3 months. An A1C level of 5.7-6.4 indicates prediabetes, and anything higher than that is indicative of diabetes.
Look out for these indicators of Type 2 diabetes.
“Common symptoms of high blood sugar often include excessive thirst, excessive urination, increased hunger, general tiredness, blurred vision, frequent infections, skin sores, and numbness and tingling in the feet,” said Dr. Halai. “Even if no obvious symptoms present, people with risk factors, particularly who are overweight or have a family history of diabetes, should consider getting checked.”
Other common risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:
- Age: Risk increases after the age of 45
- Physical inactivity: Physical activity taking place less than 3 times a week
- Gestational diabetes: A history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a child who is over 9 pounds.
- Ethnicity: Members of Black, Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native communities are at higher risk, as well as some Pacific Islanders and Asian American people.
Leverage Wellvolution to prevent and manage diabetes.
Available at no extra cost to Blue Shield of California members, Wellvolution has a number of lifestyle medicine programs aimed at preventing, managing and often even reversing Type 2 diabetes. Through Wellvolution, members complete a health assessment and are recommended programs that are customized to fit their individual health needs. The diabetes management and prevention programs that may be recommended include:
- Virta: Combining advanced telehealth technology and clinically proven personalized nutrition, Virta’s approach helps patients reverse Type 2 diabetes.
- HabitNu: With a focus on creating healthy lifelong habits, HabitNu can help members prevent Type 2 diabetes by eating well.
- Restore Health: With daily activities and prompts that take less than 15 minutes, members interested in managing their weight can make their way through science-backed curriculum on sleep, stress, nutrition and exercise. Restore Health focuses on modifying behaviors one choice at a time.
- Virgin Pulse Transform for Prediabetes: One-on-one coaching, paired with self-paced lesson plans, combines high tech with a personal touch for adults at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- WW: A Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-approved program, WW helps members at risk of developing diabetes lose weight without having to give up their favorite foods.
A closer look: Diabetes by the numbers
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re not alone.
3 million Californians have diabetes, which includes 6.3% of all Blue Shield of California members.
82.4% of members with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes.
47.43% of members with diabetes are women, and 52.57% are men.
More men have diabetes than women, but according to the Centers of Disease Control, women with diabetes have a 4x increased risk of heart disease while the risk in men is increased only 2x. Furthermore, women with diabetes also have a higher risk for other diabetes related complications, including blindness and kidney disease.
For more on Blue Shield's programs to help prevent and reverse diabetes, visit Wellvolution.