Who Gets It? When a person has type 2 diabetes, the body
either does not produce enough insulin or the cells cannot use
the insulin that is naturally produced by the body. Insulin is a
hormone produced in the pancreas, which your body needs to let
blood sugar into cells so the sugar can be broken down to create
energy. When your cells are not able to use insulin (a condition
called insulin resistance) or your body does not produce enough
insulin, too much sugar stays in the bloodstream. This starves
cells of energy and, over time, high blood sugar levels may
damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.
- Common signs and symptoms may include any of the
- increased thirst
- frequent urination
- extreme fatigue
- repeated or slow-healing infections
- blurred vision
- tingling or loss of feeling in the hands or feet
Some people may not experience these or any symptoms. For a
complete list of symptoms,
Anyone can be diagnosed with diabetes. Age, weight, heredity and
ethnic background can all affect the degree of risk for
developing the disease.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes has officially reached
epidemic proportions. The study found that from 1990 to 2000,
the number of American adults who have diabetes increased by 49
percent, an increase reflected in all demographic and geographic
segments of the population. The growing prevalence was
attributed largely to a similarly dramatic rise in obesity, as
well as to sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating.
Obesity, which was also declared an epidemic in the United
States, is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
Most patients with type 2 diabetes are obese, and obesity itself
causes some degree of insulin resistance, an underlying cause of
type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes and its complications occur among Americans of all ages
and ethnicities, but the elderly and certain racial/ethnic
groups are more commonly affected by the disease. Compared with
non-Hispanic whites, African-Americans and Hispanics/ Latino
Americans are about two times more likely to have diabetes.
Native Americans are about 2.6 times more likely to have the
disease compared with non-Hispanic whites; in fact, one tribe in
Arizona has the highest rate of diabetes in the world, with
about 50 percent of the adults between the ages of 30 and 64
with the disease. Public health concern is likely to increase as
minority populations grow and the U.S. population becomes older.
In addition, the following characteristics increase the risk of
type 2 diabetes:
- People who are over the age of 45
- People who are overweight
- People with a family history of diabetes
- People with low amounts of HDL (the "good" cholesterol
that removes cholesterol build-p from artery walls) or high
amounts of triglycerides (fats) in their blood
- Women who have had gestational diabetes or who have had
a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth
Approximately 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with type
2 diabetes. And, since the symptoms often appear gradually,
nearly 5 million more have it and don't even know it.
Several factors make it more likely that a person will develop
diabetes. Some of these risk factors can be controlled and some
Controllable risk factors:
- Obesity. You're at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes
if you're 20% or more above your healthiest body weight.
- Lack of physical activity. A "couch potato" lifestyle
can lead to unhealthy blood sugar levels.
- High blood pressure and/or high cholesterol. Either or
both of these conditions make you more prone to type 2
Uncontrollable risk factors:
- Family history. Your risk is higher if you have an
immediate family member with diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes, or delivering a baby over 9
pounds. Women who had diabetes during pregnancy or had a
large baby are at greater risk for developing diabetes
- Age. Type 2 diabetes is more common in people over
40, but it's increasing among younger people and
children due to poor diet and lack of activity.
- Ethnic group. African-Americans, Hispanics, Native
Americans, and Asian Americans are more likely than
Caucasians to develop diabetes.
The more of these risk factors you have, the likelier it is
that you will develop type 2 diabetes. But, most cases can be
linked to two things that can be controlled -- too much weight
and too little physical activity.
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Diabetes Treatment Options