Find out if you’re at risk

What is type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a long-term condition that causes a person's blood glucose (sugar) levels to become too high. For those with diabetes, their body is unable to break down glucose into energy. Although there are many different types, type 2 diabetes affects around 90 percent of those with the condition. It develops when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin.

What can cause type 2 diabetes?

There are several risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Unlike other types of diabetes, lifestyle factors can affect your risk. These include:

Being obese or overweight

Excess body fat, especially if it’s stored around your middle, a waist size of 80 cm (31.5 inches) or more for women, or 94 cm (37 inches) or more for men, can increase the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. 

Obesity is also a risk factor for high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels which both increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Even if it’s just by a small amount, reducing your body weight can help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity. This helps to reduce your risk of not only type 2 diabetes, but also heart attacks, strokes and cancer. 

Often, if you’re struggling to lose weight, your portion sizes could be to blame. Try using a smaller plate to serve your food or maybe try using measuring cups for a simple way to measure the amount you eat.

Not exercising regularly

Having an active lifestyle can be one way to lose weight and help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Making exercise a part of your daily routine will help to maintain a healthy weight, manage your blood sugar levels and lower your risk of heart disease. If fitness isn’t your thing and you’re not sure where to start, don’t sweat it. We’ve got lots of exercise tips and tricks to help get your heart pumping.

Eating an unhealthy diet

We all know how important a balanced diet is to keep us healthy. The food choices we make affect our risk of developing many different health conditions, including type 2 diabetes. A diet high in sugar and fat can make it harder to manage your blood sugars and blood pressure, as well as leading to potential weight gain. These factors can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. While a small amount of fat is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet, we should all swap foods high in unhealthy saturated fats to healthy saturated fats where we can. Healthier fats are in foods like unsalted nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish, olive oil and sunflower oil. Making small changes to a few of your eating habits can help to make a big difference.

Not all type 2 diabetes risk factors are lifestyle related. Unfortunately, there are a few that you have no control over. These include:

Being of South Asian & African-Caribbean descent

Type 2 diabetes is two to four times more likely to develop in those of South Asian descent and African-Caribbean or Black African descent.

Having a close relative with type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes runs in families. You’re two to six times more likely to develop the condition if a close family member like your parent, siblings or children have type 2 diabetes.

Your age

Your risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older. You’re more likely to be diagnosed if you’re white and over 40 or over 25 if you’re African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian.

Previously having gestational diabetes

If you developed diabetes while you were pregnant, you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future.

We understand you can’t help or change some of these risk factors. However, eating well and exercising regularly will help you look after your health. It’s also important to be aware of the symptoms of diabetes as the condition can cause long-term health problems if it’s not well managed. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important.

If you ever experience symptoms of high blood sugar including increased thirst, dry mouth and needing to go to the toilet more often than usual, speak with your GP or use our testing service below.*

*Subject to availability and clinician approval. Charges apply.