About one out of three people with type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it. It’s a chronic condition that thwarts your body’s ability to use the carbohydrates in food for energy. The result is elevated blood sugar. Over time it raises your risk for heart disease, loss of vision, nerve and organ damage, and other serious conditions.


The more risk factors you have, the greater your odds of developing type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors You Can Control

Some health habits and medical conditions related to your lifestyle can increase the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, including:

  • Being overweight, especially at the waist
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Diet high in red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and sweets
  • Abnormal cholesterol and blood fats, such as HDL “good” cholesterol lower than 35 mg/dL and /or a triglyceride level over 250 mg/dL

Risk Factors You Can’t Control

Other risk factors are out of your control, including:

  • Race or ethnicity: Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians have a higher than average risk.
  • Family history of diabetes: Having a parent or sibling with diabetes boosts your risk.
  • Age: Being 45 and older increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors for Women

Having gestational diabetes when you’re pregnant or puts you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on. So does giving birth to a baby that weighs over 9 pounds. A history of polycystic ovary syndrome can also cause insulin resistance that leads to diabetes.


There are many questions concerning diabetes. Here a few common ones.

How Does Insulin Work?

In a healthy person, insulin helps turn food into energy. Your stomach breaks down carbohydrates from food into sugars. They enter the bloodstream, prompting your pancreas to release the hormone insulin in just the right amount. It gets the sugars to cells throughout your body, which use them for fuel.

What are Metabolism Mishaps?

In type 2 diabetes, your cells can’t absorb sugar properly. That means there’s a lot of it in your blood. If you have a condition called insulin resistance, your body makes excess the hormone, but your muscle, liver, and fat cells don’t use it or respond properly to it. If you’ve had type 2 diabetes for a while but haven’t treated it, your pancreas will make less insulin.

How Is It Diagnosed?

A simple blood test can tell if you have diabetes. The A1C test gives a snapshot of your average blood glucose level over the past 2-3 months. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher may mean diabetes. Other tests can also back up that diagnosis. If you take a fasting plasma glucose test, a result above 126 is considered diabetes. If you already have classic symptoms of diabetes, your doctor might give you a random blood glucose test. A result higher than 200 probably means diabetes.

Can It Be Prevented?

One of the most surprising things about this life-altering condition is that you can avoid it. To lower your risk, follow the same guidelines for warding off heart disease:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Talk to your doctor about being screened for prediabetes.

In people with prediabetes, lifestyle changes and medication can help prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes.


There are many easy ways to control and reduce complications.


There are many effects of untreated diabetes.

Artery Damage

Over time, untreated type 2 diabetes can damage many of your body’s systems. About two out of three people with diabetes die of heart disease. It also puts you at a two to four times higher risk for stroke. People with diabetes are likely to get plaque in their arteries. This sticky substance slows blood flow and increases your risk of clots. It leads to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which makes you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Kidneys Problems

The longer you have diabetes, the greater the more chances you’ll get chronic kidney disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. It’s to blame for about half of new cases. Controlling your diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol can lower your risk for this complication. Yearly screenings and medications to slow the onset or progress of disease can keep your kidneys healthy.

Eye Issues

High blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the retina, a critical part of your eye. This is known as diabetic retinopathy, and it can lead to vision loss. It’s the leading cause of new cases of blindness in people between the ages of 20 and 74. Pools of blood, or hemorrhages, on the retina of an eye are visible in this image.

Nerve Pain

Over time, uncontrolled diabetes and high blood sugar can cause nerve damage. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, pain, and a pins and needles sensation — often in your fingers, hands, toes, or feet. The damage can’t be reversed, but there are treatments to help with pain and numbness. Controlling your diabetes can help prevent further damage.

Foot Injuries

Diabetic nerve damage can make it hard to feel your feet and detect injury. At the same time, hardening of the arteries causes poor blood flow to your feet. Foot sores and gangrene can occur, even from small injury. In severe cases, infections can go unchecked and result in an amputation.