Knowing and preventing type 2 diabetes

More than 34 million Americans have diabetes (that’s about one in 10 people). Those with type 1 diabetes are born with it. But about 90 to 95% of those with diabetes have the other kind: type 2 diabetes. It’s usually people over age 45 who develop type 2. But more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it. Here is how it can be avoided, how to spot it if it develops, and what to do about it.

Type 2 diabetes causes

Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas. Insulin allows the cells of your body to use blood sugar as energy. If you have type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin. This is called insulin resistance. When insulin resistance happens, your pancreas makes more insulin, trying to get cells to respond. But eventually, your pancreas can’t keep up. So your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The resulting high blood sugar damages your body and can cause other serious health problems like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

Certain risk factors put you at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

You may be at risk if you:

  • Are 45 years or older
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)
  • Are overweight
  • Are physically active less than three times a week
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
  • Have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Have prediabetes
Type 2 diabetes symptoms often develop over several years. They can exist for a long time before they are noticed. Sometimes there aren’t any noticeable symptoms at all. Because symptoms can be hard to spot, it’s important to know what they are and the risk factors involved.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider and get your blood sugar tested if you:

  • Urinate a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Are very hungry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

A blood test will let you know if you have diabetes. If you have had your blood sugar tested at a health fair or pharmacy, follow up at a clinic or doctor’s office to make sure the results are accurate.

Woman lifting weights

Diabetes is managed mostly by you.

There is a lot of support available from your healthcare team (including your primary care doctor, foot doctor, dentist, eye doctor, registered dietitian, nutritionist, diabetes educator, and pharmacist), family, and other important people in your life. Managing diabetes can be challenging, but everything you do to improve your health is worth it!

  • Develop a healthy eating and activity plan
  • Test your blood sugar and keep a record of the results
  • Recognize the signs of high or low blood sugar and what to do about it
  • If needed, give yourself insulin by syringe, pen, or pump
  • Monitor your feet, skin, and eyes for unusual problems and to catch them early
  • Buy diabetes supplies and store them properly
  • Manage stress and deal with daily diabetes care
  • Ask your doctor about diabetes self-management, education, and support services

Childhood obesity rates are rising, as are the rates of type 2 diabetes.

More than 75% of children with type 2 diabetes have a close relative who has it too. But it’s not always because family members are related. It can also be because they share certain habits that can increase their risk. Parents can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by developing a plan for the whole family.

It helps to:

  • Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Make favorite foods healthier
  • Make physical activity more fun

Healthy changes become habits more easily when everyone makes them together.

How we can help

If you’re a Capital BlueCross member and need advice or help managing your diabetes, contact our Care Management team. We have experienced registered nurses and licensed social workers who provide support, education, and help to coordinate services for complex medical needs, including diabetes. Visit our Care Management website to get started, or call 888.545.4512.


Source: “Type 2 Diabetes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html.

The information provided is meant for a general audience. Capital BlueCross and its affiliated companies believe this health education resource provides useful information but does not assume any liability associated with its use.