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Type 2 Diabetes: How to Know If You're at Risk

Feb. 12, 2020 - Sheshe Giddens

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Diabetics tend to have too much glucose circulating in their blood. The disease often develops in stages, starting as prediabetes or insulin resistance. People with prediabetes have elevated blood sugar, but it isn't high enough to be classified as diabetes.

If your blood sugar surpasses the prediabetic range, you're considered a diabetic. If left unregulated, type 2 diabetes can lead to:

  • Blindness
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Amputations
  • Death

 

The disease often develops in stages, starting as prediabetes or insulin resistance. People with prediabetes have elevated blood sugar, but it isn't high enough to be classified as diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 30.3 million Americans have diabetes. Of that number, 7.2 million people with the disease are undiagnosed. In addition, there are a staggering 79 million people with prediabetes. If this trend continues, by 2050, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes.

Are you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

One of the biggest contributing factors to the increase in diabetes is the rise in obesity, but there are other risk factors.

If you have one or more of the following risk factors, talk to your doctor about testing and prevention:

  • Age 45 or older
  • Overweight
  • Physically inactive
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Had gestational diabetes
  • Have prediabetes
  • African-American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Pacific Islander
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Dark velvety hyperpigmented skin around the neck or armpits

 

How is type 2 diabetes different from type 1 diabetes?

Unlike type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes can still make insulin, but they develop a resistance to it. This means that the body doesn't properly use the insulin hormone that the pancreas produces, which leads to it making more insulin.

Insulin helps the cells absorb glucose so that they can use it for energy. As the process of producing more and more insulin continues, the pancreas is unable to meet the demand, causing blood glucose levels to remains too high and type 2 diabetes to occur. In some instances, the cells that produce the insulin become severely impaired or destroyed, and the diabetic requires insulin to help regulate blood glucose.

How to manage type 2 diabetes

If you suspect you have diabetes, schedule an appointment with your doctor to check your blood glucose and to test your hemoglobin A1c, which will give you an idea of your blood glucose levels over the last three months.

With medication and monitoring, diabetics attempt a delicate balancing act to keep their blood glucose within the normal range. If their blood glucose is too low, it can lead to injuries, coma and even death.

The symptoms of low blood glucose happen quickly and can include:

  • Shakiness
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Dizziness

 

If blood glucose is too high, the more devastating effects usually occur over prolonged periods of time, but immediate symptoms include excessive thirst and frequent urination.

Below are the target blood glucose levels for diabetics:

  • Fasting: 70–120 mg/dl
  • After meals (1-2 hours): Less than 140 mg/dl
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