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Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Wednesday 7 February 2024
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

II. Risk Factors

III. Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

IV. Diagnostic Tests

V. Treatment

VI. Conclusion

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you’ll naturally be curious about this condition and how to manage it.

In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about type 2 diabetes. We’ll cover the definition, causes, risk factors, symptoms, and diagnostic methods.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic issue where there's too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. This happens because the body faces two main problems: insulin resistance and insufficient insulin production. [1]

Here's a breakdown of those two components:

1. Insulin Resistance occurs when your cells don’t respond properly to insulin. Normally, insulin acts like a key, unlocking cells so glucose can get inside and provide energy. But with resistance, that key no longer works properly. Glucose then builds up outside of cells, causing high blood sugar.

2. Insufficient Insulin Production: Over time, the pancreas tries to overcome insulin resistance by producing more insulin. However, it eventually wears out and cannot produce enough insulin to regulate glucose levels. [1]

The combination of insulin resistance and insufficient insulin production results in persistently high blood sugar levels, which is the definition of type 2 diabetes. 

Risk Factors

elderly man talking to a doctor


Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and is usually due to lifestyle choices such as lack of physical activity and a bad diet. Both habits can promote insulin resistance in the body. [2]

Let's break down why this happens and what you can do to prevent it.

• Lack of physical activity reduces your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which causes glucose to build up in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, insulin sensitivity can decrease fast. Research has found evidence of decreased insulin sensitivity after only three days of bed rest.

• Diets high in processed foods, sugary beverages, and unhealthy fats lead to an increase in body weight. Fat accumulation results in insulin resistance over time. [2]

The good news is small, sustainable changes to your daily habits can positively impact diabetes risk and blood sugar control. Focus on moving more, eating nutritious foods, and maintaining a healthy weight.


The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age, with many diagnoses occurring after the age of 45. [3]

As we age, our body naturally goes through changes that can impact our health. One of these changes is decreasing insulin sensitivity and increasing insulin resistance, which makes it more difficult for our bodies to regulate blood sugar levels. This puts older adults at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. [4]

Family History

If you have a close relative with type 2 diabetes, you have a higher chance of being diagnosed. In fact, genetics play a stronger role in the development of type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. [5]

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

• Increased thirst

• Frequent urination

• Fatigue

• Irritability

• Blurred vision

• Slow wound healing [6]

If you experience these symptoms and suspect you may have type 2 diabetes, contact your doctor.

Diagnostic Tests

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, early diagnosis and treatment are key. The four main diagnostic tests used to assess type 2 diabetes are the following:

• Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Test measures blood glucose levels after an overnight fast. This test analyzes your ability to regulate glucose without the influence of recent meals. An FPG value above 126 mg/dl indicates diabetes. [7]

• Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) Test measures the average amount of blood sugar over the past three months. This test provides insight into long-term blood sugar management. An HbA1c of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. [7]

• Oral Glucose Tolerance (OGTT) Test assesses how well your body handles sugar. For this test, you will fast overnight and then drink a sweet glucose solution. Your blood sugar levels are measured several times over two hours to see how your body responds to the sugar challenge. A 200 mg/dL or higher blood glucose level two hours after the glucose intake suggests diabetes. [7]

• Random Blood Sugar Tests can be taken any time, regardless of when you ate. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes. [7]


Man holding insulin

The goal of type 2 diabetes treatment is to keep your blood sugar in a healthy target range. This is done with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

Fortunately, there are a variety of medications available in the market today, such as Januvia, Jardiance, and Rybelsus, offering you a range of choices. The key is to find a combination of medication and lifestyle changes tailored to you. This can be done by working with your doctor to find a treatment plan customized to your health.


Type 2 diabetes is a complex condition that arises from a combination of insulin resistance, lifestyle choices, and genetics. While challenging, this condition is manageable through diligent self-care. By making healthy changes to diet, activity levels, and other daily habits, those at risk or diagnosed can dramatically improve their health outlook. Top of Form

If you have more questions about your type 2 diabetes diagnosis, visit our dedicated diabetes blog for answers.

The content provided in this article is based on thorough research and in some cases, reviewed by a medical professional. Our goal for the information is to provide helpful, general health informational. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.