Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Posted at 10:15 AM on Nov 1, 2023

November is National Diabetes Month - Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

According to the CDC, more than 37 million Americans have diabetes with  90% to 95% of them having type 2 diabetes; 5-10% have type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 40, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it. Sadly, 1 in 5 of those affected by diabetes, don’t know they have it. Diabetes is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States.

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Prediabetes is when a person’s blood sugar levels are consistently higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, approximately 96 million American adults—more than 1 out of 3—have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, 80% don’t know they have it. More than half of individuals with prediabetes will progress to type 2 diabetes. If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, you often have time to change your lifestyle and greatly reduce your chances of progressing to type 2 diabetes. Weight loss, regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet can help prevent diabetes.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

To understand type 2 diabetes, let’s start with insulin. Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas and released into the bloodstream when blood sugar levels go up, such as after a meal. Insulin helps sugar that is floating around in the blood go inside cells to be used for energy, thereby lowering the amount of sugar in the blood.  

If you are prediabetic or diabetic your cells do not respond to insulin properly, which is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance doesn’t allow as much sugar to leave the blood and go inside cells. Thus, blood sugar levels don’t lower properly, leaving too much sugar in the bloodstream. In response to this, your pancreas will try to make more insulin to attempt to get the cells to respond normally. As a result, the pancreas eventually cannot keep up and blood sugar levels rise.

Too much sugar in the bloodstream damages small blood vessels throughout the body (especially in the kidneys and eyes), increases cholesterol plaque formation (increasing risk of heart attack and stroke), and damages nerves. The result of high blood sugar is very damaging to the body and can lead to serious health problems.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown, however, contributing factors include:

  • Genetics/Family History
  • Inactivity
  • Diet
  • Being Overweight
  • Race
  • Age

Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

If you are diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, you and your physician will sit down to determine a treatment plan. This plan will be unique to every person. However, you will learn how to make appropriate diet changes and likely be prescribed medications to help lower blood sugar. You may be advised to lose weight as well. With the improvement in diabetes medications, fewer people need to check their blood sugar every day, but people who must take insulin to control their blood sugar will need to check on a regular basis.

More Questions Regarding Diabetes?

Wondering if you are at risk or concerned you may be experiencing signs or symptoms of being prediabetic or diabetic? Make an appointment today with your primary care physician.