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Type 2 Diabetes: The Basics

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Risk Factors and Prevention

While certain things make getting diabetes more likely, they won't give you the disease. But the more that apply to you, the higher your chances of getting it are.

Some things you can't control.

  • Age: 45 or older
  • Family: A parent, sister, or brother with diabetes
  • Ethnicity: African-American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Latino, or Pacific Islander-American

Some things are related to your health and medical history. Your doctor may be able to help.

  • Prediabetes
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • High blood pressure, even if it's treated and under control
  • Low HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having gestational diabetes while you were pregnant
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition with dark rashes around your neck or armpits
  • Depression

Other risk factors have to do with your daily habits and lifestyle. These are the ones you can really do something about.

Because you can't change what happened in the past, focus on what you can do now and going forward. Take medications and follow your doctor's suggestions to be healthy. Simple changes at home can make a big difference, too.

Lose weight. Dropping just 7% to 10% of your weight can cut your risk of type 2 diabetes in half.

Get active. Moving muscles use insulin. Thirty minutes of brisk walking a day will cut your risk by almost a third.

Eat right. Avoid highly processed carbs, sugary drinks, and trans and saturated fats. Limit red and processed meats.

Quit smoking. Work with your doctor to avoid gaining weight, so you don't create one problem by solving another.


The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be so mild you don't notice them. In fact, about 8 million people who have it don't know it.

  • Being very thirsty
  • Peeing a lot
  • Blurry vision
  • Being irritable
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
  • Feeling worn out
  • Wounds that don't heal
  • Yeast infections that keep coming back
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