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This is the #1 Cause of Type 2 Diabetes

Learn what causes type 2 diabetes and how to help avoid it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Chances are you have diabetes or know someone with the common condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "More than 37 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10), and approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it." When left untreated, diabetes can cause serious health issues and knowing the signs and how to prevent the condition can be lifesaving. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Eric Stahl, MD Non-Invasive Cardiologist at Staten Island University Hospital who shares what to know about diabetes. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Type 2 Diabetes

Doctor with glucometer and insulin pen device talking to male patient at medical office in hospital.

Dr. Stahl explains, "Diabetes is a condition in which the body's regulation of blood sugar becomes disrupted. Cells need insulin to absorb sugar. When the body does not produce insulin (type I diabetes) or the body stops responding to its insulin (type 2 diabetes), blood sugar builds up in the blood. Over time, elevated blood sugar levels cause damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes, blood vessels, and nerves."


Risk Factors

Young diabetic woman checking her blood sugar levels.

According to Dr. Stahl, "Being overweight or obese is the most significant risk factor for developing diabetes. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and stress increase the risk for diabetes. Finally, those who are related to family members who have diabetes or those who have certain racial or ethnic backgrounds (African-American, Asian-American, Latino/Hispanic-American, Native American, or Pacific-Islander descent) should be screened more regularly due to their increased risk."


Type 2 Diabetes is Dangerous if Left Untreated

asian elder couple use blood glucose meter and worry about it

"Untreated diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels over time can cause serious medical problems, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, peripheral artery disease, eye damage, and nerve damage," says Dr. Stahl. 


Signs of Type 2 Diabetes

woman in bed feeling thirsty reaching for water

Dr. Stahl tells us, "Those with diabetes, even uncontrolled, can remain asymptomatic for some time. Others may experience increased thirst, urination, appetite, fatigue, blurred vision, and weight loss." 


Anyone Over 45 Should Be Tested

Young woman measures blood sugar level.

Dr. Stahl recommends, "Because of its occasional insidious onset, everyone over the age of 45 years old should be screened for diabetes. Additionally, screening is recommended for those younger than 45 years old who are overweight and have additional risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history of diabetes, are a certain racial or ethnic background (African-American, Asian-American, Latino/Hispanic-American, Native American, or Pacific-Islander descent) or have a personal history of gestational diabetes. Screening is performed by blood test- either a fasting blood sugar level or hemoglobin A1C, which is an average blood sugar level over the previous 2 to 3 months."


Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

Dr. Stahl emphasizes, "The development of diabetes is related to a number of different factors. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet typically contribute to insulin resistance (failure to respond to insulin). Family history and genetics generally are responsible for impaired or decreased insulin production. In combination, blood sugar levels rise which eventually leads to diabetes and further disruption of insulin production and effectiveness." 


Preventing Diabetes

woman eating pizza in bed
Shutterstock / Doucefleur

Dr. Stahl says, "Lifestyle changes are the most important aspect of diabetes prevention. Even modest weight loss and increased physical activity can make a significant impact. Diabetes prevention should also focus on controlling blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and quitting smoking." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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