What is Type 2 Diabetes?

What is Type 2 Diabetes?
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Whether you're at risk, newly diagnosed, or have been managing diabetes for some time, this article aims to enlighten, inspire, and empower you to take control of your health, one step at a time. In this post, we're going to explore what Type 2 diabetes is, its causes, and practical steps you can take to manage or even prevent it.

According to Diabetes UK, 9 out of 10 people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a condition that affects the way your body handles glucose, a kind of sugar, in your blood. With Type 2 diabetes, the insulin your pancreas makes can't work properly. This is because your body either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that controls the movement of sugar into your cells — or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.

Everyone needs insulin to stay alive. However the amount of insulin in the body at any given time must remain within a healthy range for normal bodily functions. Too much insulin can cause a condition known as hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) while too little insulin causes hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar).

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which is typically diagnosed in children and young adults and is related to the body not producing insulin at all, Type 2 diabetes is mostly seen in adults and can develop over many years due to lifestyle factors and genetics. However, it's becoming increasingly common in younger populations too, due to rising obesity rates and sedentary lifestyles. 

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes: A Simplified Guide

Here's a straightforward breakdown of what happens in your body when you have Type 2 diabetes:

Insulin Resistance: Insulin is like a key that opens your body's cells to allow sugar to enter and be used for energy. In Type 2 diabetes, your body's cells don't respond properly to insulin. This means sugar can't enter the cells as easily, and it starts to build up in your blood.

Pancreas Overload: At first, your pancreas tries to make more insulin to get the sugar into your cells. But over time, it can't keep up, and the sugar levels in your blood stay high.

High blood sugar levels over time can lead to various health problems, affecting your heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes. The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable and manageable through lifestyle changes. Adjusting your diet, increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress are powerful steps you can take to reduce your risk or effectively manage your condition.

What causes diabetes?

The exact cause of Type 2 diabetes is not fully understood, but it is known to involve a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Here are some of the key risk factors:

  • Being overweight or obese: Excess fat, especially around the stomach makes your cells less likely to respond well to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance, and it can cause more sugar to accumulate in the blood because the sugar cannot enter the cells where it needs to be used up for energy.
  • Inactivity: The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps control your weight, uses up glucose as energy, and makes your cells respond to insulin.
  • Family history: Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has Type 2 diabetes.
  • Age: Your risk increases as you get older, especially after age 45, though it's becoming more common in younger people too.
  • Poor diet: A diet high in processed meats, fat, sweets, and low in fiber can increase the risk.

What are the warning signs?

Type 2 diabetes can develop slowly, and you might not notice the signs immediately. See your doctor immediately if you notice these common symptoms which include:

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  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss, despite eating more
  • Tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing wounds

Management and Prevention

While there's no cure for Type 2 diabetes, with the right lifestyle changes, you can manage the condition and lead a healthy life. Here are some practical tips:

1. Eat Healthily

Focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and those high in sugar and fat. Eating smaller portions spread out over the day can also help control your blood sugar levels.

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2. Stay Active

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This could be brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. Exercise helps keep your weight down and increases insulin sensitivity.

Incorporate movement into your day: Take short breaks to stand or walk around, especially if you have a desk job. Small actions like taking the stairs instead of the elevator can add up.

3. Monitor Your Blood Sugar

Keep track of your blood sugar levels to understand how different foods and activities affect you. This will help you make healthier choices.

4. Manage Your Stress

Stress can affect your blood sugar levels, so it's important to find ways to relax. Try deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.

Balance work and play/leisure. Ensure you have a healthy work-life balance by setting aside time for activities you enjoy. You can treat yourself to a vacation or holiday. It doesn't have to be expensive, what matters is that it is relaxing and refreshing.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you're overweight, losing even a small amount of weight (5% to 10% of your body weight) can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes.

Monitor your progress by keeping track of your weight loss journey and celebrate small victories to stay motivated.

6. Get Enough Sleep

Prioritise quality night time sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of good sleep each night. Poor sleep can affect your body's insulin use and blood sugar control. If you struggle with insomnia, or have trouble sleeping, there is help to available.

Establish a sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to regulate your body's clock.

7. Monitor Your Health

Stay informed and respond to routine check-ups with your healthcare professional to help you monitor your condition and adjust your management plan as needed.


In summary, Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, but it's also highly manageable, especially with early detection and the right lifestyle changes. By eating healthily, staying active, and monitoring your health, you can control your diabetes and lead a vibrant, healthy life. Remember, you're not alone in this journey—seek support from healthcare professionals, loved ones, and support groups to stay motivated.

Implementing these lifestyle changes may seem challenging at first, especially with a busy schedule. However, by taking small, steady steps and making adjustments that fit into your life, you can significantly reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes or manage it effectively if you've already been diagnosed. Remember, every positive choice adds up to a healthier future.

More Resources

Diabetes UK is a great website with lots of information on diabetes.

NHS page on diabetes.

Are you living with diabetes or have a family member living with diabetes, or maybe you've been recently diagnosed? Please subscribe here and leave a comment or suggestions for what you want us to cover.

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