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With Type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t use insulin the way it should to control blood sugar (blood glucose) levels. This is known as insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for the body’s poor use. Over time, the pancreas can no longer keep up. It can’t create enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
High blood sugar increases inflammation in your arteries. When this happens, your organs don’t get the blood they need to stay healthy and function properly. With diabetes you have a greater risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, blindness and advanced memory loss.
An unhealthy lifestyle can trigger the onset of the disease, but genetics play a role, too. Some groups of people have a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes than others. The disease is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.
While there isn’t a cure for diabetes, a lot can be done to control blood sugar levels so individuals can live well with the disease. Lifestyle changes, oral medications and insulin are all important tools that help.
Some people with Type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose with healthy eating and regular physical activity. Still, for many, oral medications or insulin may be needed.
Sadly, millions of people are in the dark about their diabetes. About one in five people don’t even know they have the disease. Signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes often develop slowly and aren’t always clear. In fact, you can have Type 2 diabetes for years and not know it. It’s important to recognize the symptoms.
Watch for these warning signs:
If you have any of these symptoms and are concerned about Type 2 diabetes, talk with your doctor. They may order a blood glucose test to check for prediabetes or diabetes.
Originally published 3/4/2016; Revised 2021, 2023
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