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Reducing risk: type 2 diabetes

Illustration of people with diabetes interacting with a blood sugar monitor

You’ve probably heard of glucose. It’s a type of sugar you get from the food you eat, and it’s your body’s main source of energy. It’s the fuel that keeps your brain thinking, your muscles moving, and your organs working. 

Your body has evolved complicated mechanisms over millions of years to process glucose. But when those mechanisms stop working properly, you can become unwell. 

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition linked to glucose. It affects more people today than ever before, so it’s important you understand how to reduce your risk. 

Let’s learn about diabetes, take a closer look at type 2 diabetes, and find out what you can start doing today to reduce your risk of developing it.

What’s diabetes?

Before we talk about diabetes, let’s look at how your body gets glucose. 

When you eat food, your digestive system processes it, extracting glucose. When that glucose enters your blood, it triggers your pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin travels around your body in blood, interacting with cells so they can take up the glucose and use it for energy. 

You can think of insulin as a microscopic key for letting glucose into cells. 

When that key isn’t there or stops working, the glucose in your blood can’t go anywhere. If your blood glucose levels stay too high for a long time, you can start to feel unwell. That’s diabetes.

There are 2 main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 happens when the immune system attacks the pancreas so that it can’t produce enough insulin. In some cases, the pancreas can stop producing insulin altogether.1

Type 2 happens when the pancreas slows down insulin production or when cells in the body stop responding to it properly.2

Let’s focus on type 2 diabetes in this article.

What about type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.3

Who’s at risk?

Everyone’s type 2 diabetes risk level is different. It’s linked to lifestyle, age, and genetic factors. Here are some of the type 2 diabetes risk factors:4

  • being overweight
  • being physically inactive
  • being 45 years or older
  • having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • having a Black African, African Caribbean, or South Asian background. 

It’s important to remember that you can develop type 2 diabetes without having any family history. And having a family history doesn’t mean you will get it.5 It’s all about understanding the factors that affect your own risk level.

What happens when you have type 2 diabetes?

People with type 2 diabetes can experience a range of symptoms. Here are some of the most common ones:6

  • peeing a lot, especially at night
  • feeling more thirsty than usual
  • feeling very tired
  • losing weight without trying
  • cuts or wounds taking a long time to heal
  • blurry vision.

Some people don’t notice their symptoms for a long time. So it’s important you understand what puts you at risk. If it isn’t treated, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health problems. 

How do doctors treat type 2 diabetes?

With a combination of medicine to lower blood glucose levels and healthy lifestyle changes, most people with type 2 diabetes live normal lives.

For many people, this condition can get worse with time. But new studies show that type 2 diabetes of up to 6 years’ duration could be reversible with careful weight loss and health management.5

How can you reduce your risk?

Understand your risk

Type 2 diabetes can take years to develop, and some people don’t notice any symptoms until it’s too late. So the more you understand about your own risks, the better equipped you are to spot anything strange and make the right lifestyle decisions. 

A good start is to check your risk level using an online type 2 diabetes risk calculator. You can also ask your doctor about it. 

Healthy habits go a long way

Maintaining a healthy weight and getting active can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Plus, you’ll feel healthier and happier.

Studies show that even just 30 minutes of fast walking every day can reduce your risk.7 So get your walking shoes on and go exploring.

A healthy diet will also help. But don’t worry: that doesn’t mean a ban on all your favorite foods.8 The most important thing is moderation. That means regular, balanced meals and not overdoing it on the portions. 

Try making a healthy meal plan for the week. Having a fridge full of the right food will help you avoid skipping meals and overeating. And you can still enjoy a well-earned treat. 

With a few small changes, it’s easy to take good care of yourself.

  1. Atkinson, M. A., Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med, (2012), doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a007641.

  2. Galicia-Garcia, U,. Int. J. Mol. Sci., (2020), doi: 10.3390/ijms21176275.

  3. WHO. “Diabetes.” Accessed 3 February 2021.

  4. CDC. “Diabetes Risk Factors.” Accessed 3 February 2021.

  5. Lean. M. EJ., The Lancet, (2018), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)33102-1.

  6. CDC. “Diabetes Symptoms.” Accessed 3 February 2021.

  7. Loreto C. D., Diabetes Care, (2005), doi: 10.2337/diacare.28.6.1295.

  8. NIH. “Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity.” Accessed 03 February 2021.