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Diabetes (Type 2 Diabetes)

Type 2 diabetes is when your body can’t make enough insulin, or use it well. Insulin helps your cells use sugar (glucose) for energy. Without insulin, glucose builds up in your blood. This leads to high blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes is an ongoing (chronic) disease. It has no known cure. It’s the most common type of diabetes.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not known. It seems to run in families. But it often takes other factors to bring on the disease. These include:

  • Being overweight
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Taking certain medicines

Who is at risk for type 2 diabetes?

Risk factors include:

  • Age. People ages 45 and older are at higher risk for diabetes.
  • Family history of diabetes. The condition tends to run in families.
  • Extra weight. Being overweight puts you at higher risk.
  • Lack of exercise. Not enough physical activity also puts you at risk.
  • Taking certain medicines. These include steroids, some water pills (diuretics), and medicines for mental health (antipsychotics).
  • Race and ethnicity. People who have African, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Island, or American Indian heritage are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes. Having diabetes in pregnancy puts you at higher risk of type 2 diabetes later.
  • Low HDL. This means low levels of the “good” cholesterol.
  • A high triglyceride level. This is a type of blood fat.
  • Smoking. Being a smoker puts you at higher risk.
  • Other health problems. Some health problems are linked with type 2 diabetes. These include polycystic ovary syndrome, patches of darker skin (acanthosis nigricans) , or being born at a low birth weight.

For more information on this topic, visit our Health Library.