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What is a type 2 diabetes treatment?

Find out how healthy lifestyle practices can treat type 2 diabetes.

Insulin helps treat type 2 diabetes. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Insulin helps treat type 2 diabetes.

The main goal of a type 2 diabetes treatment plan is to regulate the level of glucose in the blood. People who have type 2 diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin, or their cells are resistant to the effects of insulin. If the body produces too much insulin in response to blood sugar, there can be devastating complications to the kidneys, eyes, digestive system, and other areas of the body. Because type 2 diabetes develops over time, early detection and treatment are critical for managing the condition and avoiding serious complications. 

One crucial part of type 2 diabetes treatment is monitoring blood sugar. Home testing kits, called glucometers, use a drop of blood to detect the level of blood sugar. If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your health care provider will give you a tutorial on how to use the glucometer. Recorded over time, these readings give you valuable information about how your diet, exercise and medication are working to manage your diabetes. They also give you the immediate benefit of identifying high or low blood sugar levels.

Diet

Eating well-balanced meals is crucial for keeping your blood sugar at normal (non-diabetic) levels. Consulting with a nutritionist is the best bet for developing an eating plan that meets the specific needs of each patient, but there are some general tips to keep in mind regardless. 

Eat a wide variety of fruits, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include broccoli, green beans and carrots. Lean meats like skinless turkey and chicken, as well as fish two or three times per week, are good choices. Avoid high-fat or high-sugar foods, and watch your portion sizes. 

It’s also important to pay attention to what you’re drinking. Stick with water or other calorie-free beverages and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks. 

If you’re looking for a great resource on nutrition, the American Diabetes Association offers several dietary tips for people with type 2 diabetes.

Exercise

Getting regular daily exercise is an important part of any type 2 diabetes treatment regimen. The benefits of exercise include regulating blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight and lowering high blood pressure. People with diabetes should take extra precautions with exercise, however. If you have diabetes, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and carry a high-carbohydrate snack, such as an energy bar, with you in case of low blood sugar. Be sure to test your blood before and after exercise to keep blood sugar levels on track. Be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise plan.

Medication

In some cases, when diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to manage diabetes, medication may become a necessary part of type 2 diabetes treatment. Several types of medication can be used. Oral sulfonylureas help boost insulin production in the pancreas. Meglitinides help by telling the pancreas to increase insulin when glucose levels in the blood are high. Thiazolidinediones decrease the cells’ resistance to insulin. Biguanides decrease glucose production in the liver. Alpha-glucose inhibitors, or glucosidase inhibitors, help lower blood sugar by slowing carbohydrate absorption from the digestive tract. 

If these oral medications do not work to regulate blood sugar satisfactorily, your doctor will prescribe insulin, which is taken via injection.

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