Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

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Unlike type 1 diabetes, where the cause is completely out the control of those who have it, the causes of type 2 diabetes are both things you can influence (your activity level, your diet) and things you can’t (your ethnicity, your family history). Most of the time, people develop diabetes due to a combination of both, perhaps in part because it’s common for families to develop the same or similar lifestyles.

It’s important to consider all of these potential causes of your diabetes, if you’ve been diagnosed, and to work to modify those that you can have an effect on. If diabetes is not taken seriously, uncontrolled blood sugars can cause significant damage to the small and large blood vessels of the body, resulting in eye, heart, kidney, and vascular disease. It is, of course, just as important to be aware of the causes of type 2 diabetes if you haven’t received a diagnosis, so you can make changes to hopefully prevent one from being in your future.

Obesity: Obesity is one of the major causes of diabetes. Having excess fat makes your cells resistant to insulin, the hormone your body needs to maintain good blood sugars. If your cells are not using insulin properly, the sugar you need to use for energy will linger in the blood, elevating your blood sugars and, eventually, leading to diabetes. Over time, this can cause complications of the eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet.

Losing weight can help you utilize insulin and prevent your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. If you lose enough weight, you may be able to get your blood sugars into normal range without medication. Keeping the weight off is the most challenging part, but maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of diabetes returning or delay it.

A Sedentary Lifestyle: As we now know, insulin plays a huge role in regulating blood sugars. Exercise helps your body use insulin, so a lack of physical activity can contribute to insulin resistance. Exercise can improve this and aid in weight loss. It is recommended to exercise 150 minutes per week. Start slowly and build up. And remember, you don’t have to join a gym to exercise—you can exercise outside, in your own home, or even when you are running errands. Do little things such as taking the stairs at work, parking your car further away from your destination, or riding your bike to work instead of taking the train. All activity counts.

Genes: According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes has a stronger link to family history and lineage than type 1, although it too depends on environmental factors. When one twin has type 2 diabetes, the other’s risk is at most three in four. Unfortunately, we can’t control our genes. But, we can control our lifestyle. If you are someone who has a strong family history of diabetes and who maintains a healthy lifestyle, then you may never get diabetes. No matter what, keeping a healthy lifestyle is good for you.

Age: As you age, your risk for diabetes increases. Of course, there’s nothing you can do to prevent time from going by, but you can make healthy choices and continue to stay active. Keep up with regular doctors’ appointments so you stay on top of your health. Make sure you know your ABCs: A1c (three-month average of blood sugar), blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Race: Certain races are at a greater risk for developing diabetes, perhaps because of genetic makeup. But you are more likely to develop diabetes if you are African American, Mexican American, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Asian American, especially if you are overweight and sedentary.

Insulin Altering Metabolism: People with diabetes make insulin, but oftentimes diabetes goes undetected for so long that they start to make less and less of the hormone.In addition, people with diabetes often can’t use insulin the way someone without diabetes could, which causes blood sugars to be high.

The best way to utilize insulin and prevent further damage is to get your blood sugars under control. The American Diabetes Association recommends that fasting blood sugars be 80-130mg/dL and after meal blood sugars (about two hours) be <180mg/dL. This may vary from person to person depending on a variety of factors. Discuss what your blood sugar targets should be with your health care provider.

Some of These Causes of Diabetes Apply to Me. Are There Any Symptoms I Should Look Out For?

Unfortunately, many people can go years and years without feeling any symptoms of diabetes. The most common symptoms include:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling/pain or numbness in the hands and feet

If some of the causes of diabetes apply to you and you experience any of these symptoms, definitely bring it to your doctor’s attention. That said, you can’t assume that no symptoms mean ​no problem. Again, stick with your regular check-ups so you can catch developing diabetes early.

A Word From VeryWell

It can feel defeating to learn that there are some causes of diabetes that you can’t influence. Focus on what you can have an impact on. Lifestyle modifications such as losing weight, exercising, and eating a healthy, modified carbohydrate diet can help to delay or prevent diabetes. If you’ve already been diagnosed, following these lifestyle recommendations and taking medications or insulin you’ve been prescribed, if any, can help you effectively manage the disease and prevent complications. Seize your ability to stay healthy.

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