4 Basic Facts About Type 2 Diabetes

An endocrinologist shares what she wants every patient to know.

Can you have diabetes and not know it? “ Yes, you can— sometimes for years. Type 2 diabetes has a gradual onset, and people often don’t think they need to get checked for it,” says endocrinologist Mindy Griffith, MD , who works at Pavonia Primary Care, an RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group provider.

“Even when they are diagnosed, many people also don’t understand how serious the disease really is,” says Dr. Griffith. Here’s what she wishes more people understood:

The effects of type 2 diabetes are happening even when you don’t feel them.

When a person is obese, he or she may develop resistance to insulin, the hormone that allows the body to use sugar to create energy. This resistance results in high levels of sugar in the blood and, ultimately, leads to the development of Type 2 diabetes. “I’ve seen patients who’ve been walking around with blood sugar levels in the 200s, but because they’re feeling okay they aren’t making an effort to control those levels,” says Dr. Griffith. “It’s important for people to realize that the damage diabetes can cause to the eyes, kidney, blood vessels and nerves may be already underway, even if they don’t see the full effects for another 10 years.”

Screening is a must.

“The American Diabetes Association guidelines recommend that adults age 45 and older get screened for Type 2 diabetes every three years,” says Dr. Griffith. Earlier or more frequent screening may be needed if a patient is overweight and has one or more of the following risk factors:
• Family history of diabetes

• Sedentary lifestyle

• African-American, Hispanic/Latino- American, Native-American, Asian- American or Pacific Islander ancestry

• History of blood glucose problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol or vascular disease

• History of gestational diabetes or birth of a baby weighing over nine pounds

• Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Changes to lifestyle are important.

“Yes, diabetes can be controlled with medication, but that is not enough for successful treatment,” says Dr. Griffith. “Weight loss through diet and exercise is very important for glycemic control.” Avoid sugary drinks, snacks and fast food. Try to utilize the Create Your Plate method from the American Diabetes Association: Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of the plate with protein, a quarter with grains and starchy foods.

If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, get the hemoglobin A1C test

Every three months, or on the schedule recommended by your physician. “Blood sugar tests give a snapshot of sugar levels at any given moment,” says Dr. Griffith. “The hemoglobin A1c test can tell you how well your diabetes has been controlled over the last three months. Make sure you discuss with your doctor what your HgbA1c goal should be.”

Diabetes-friendly and delicious recipes

These recipes are provided by the RWJBarnabas Health Wellness on Wheels van, a greenhouse and cooking school on wheels.

View Dr. Mindy P. Griffith's (a specialist in endocrinology--diabetes and metabolism) profile page to schedule an appointment.