Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism. 
Ana Maria Kausel, MD, is double board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology/diabetes and metabolism. She works in private practice and is affiliated with Mount Sinai St. Luke's/Mount Sinai West.
About one in 10 people in the United States have diabetes. Of the more than 37 million Americans living with diabetes, approximately 90–95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Though type 2 diabetes typically occurs in people who are more than 45 years old, rates are rising in children, teens, and young adults.
With type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t adequately make and/or use the insulin it needs to use glucose for energy, causing high blood sugar. This can lead to health complications. There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but it can be managed through a healthy diet, physical activity, other lifestyle changes, and sometimes, medication.

Read on to learn about type 2 diabetes and what to do after you receive your diagnosis.
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The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin which helps the cells of the body let in glucose (blood sugar) to use for fuel. With type 2 diabetes, the cells don’t respond effectively to insulin (called insulin resistance), which means the glucose stays in the blood instead of being used for energy. The pancreas then produces more insulin, which can eventually lead to the pancreas not being able to produce enough insulin. This leads to high blood sugar, which can cause health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:
Having some health conditions can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, including:
Type 2 diabetes does not always cause noticeable symptoms, particularly because the symptoms of type 2 diabetes typically develop slowly over time. For some people, the first indication they have type 2 diabetes is experiencing a health concern such as heart disease or blurred vision.
Some symptoms people with type 2 diabetes may experience include:
You will likely have an initial appointment with your healthcare provider in which you are told of your diagnosis and given some information. It may be difficult to take in this information all at once, especially as you are still processing your diagnosis. It’s helpful to take notes during the consultation that you can review later.
It’s also a good idea to book a follow-up appointment and take a list of questions with you that you may not have thought of or had time to discuss during the first appointment.
Typically, you will be advised to make lifestyle changes if they apply, such as adopting a diabetic-friendly diet, being physically active, and quitting smoking (if you smoke). You will also need to learn how to monitor your blood sugar levels.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help manage your type 2 diabetes. If you are starting a new medication, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist questions such as:
Learning how to manage your diabetes can feel overwhelming. You might consider asking your healthcare provider for a referral to a diabetes educator who can help you with everything you need to know.
It’s important to start managing your diabetes as soon as you are diagnosed, even if you are not experiencing bothersome symptoms. Early treatment can help prevent or delay damage to other areas of your body, including your nervous system, heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys.
Monitoring your blood sugar is an important part of managing your diabetes. You can check your blood sugar levels using a device called a glucose meter. A lancet (tiny needle) pricks your finger to produce a small amount of blood. This blood is put onto a test strip which goes into the glucose meter. The meter then gives a reading indicating your blood sugar level.
This reading is useful not just at that moment but to help identify patterns. Writing down your results on an ongoing basis can help you determine factors that influence your blood glucose, such as meals, exercise, certain foods, etc.
It can also help you see if there are certain times of the day when your blood sugar tends to be high or when you are dropping low.
All of this information is useful for your healthcare provider to see if you need to make changes to your management plan.

Most people with type 2 diabetes check their blood sugar once or twice a day, but how often you will need to take yours will depend on factors unique to you. Your healthcare provider can help you set up a testing schedule and give you a target range for your blood glucose levels.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend that you wear a continuous glucose monitor, which has a sensor that sits just under the skin and measures glucose levels every five minutes.
If you are carrying extra weight, especially around your midsection, your healthcare provider may suggest healthy ways to safely lose weight, which often helps manage type 2 diabetes.
Even if you are at a weight that is healthy for you, you will need to follow an eating plan that supports diabetes management. This can include:
Your healthcare provider or diabetes educator can help you with more specific food recommendations.
Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can help with type 2 diabetes management and is great for your overall health.
Before starting a fitness plan or trying a new physical activity, talk with your healthcare provider about what is appropriate and safe for you.
If you are not used to regular exercise, some tips that may help you get active include:
Other lifestyle changes to address include:
Finding what works to manage your diabetes may take some trial and error. Check in with your healthcare provider and attend all of your follow-up appointments so they can monitor your progress and see if you need to make any changes to your management plan.
Seeking the services of a diabetes educator is a great way to learn more about what to expect while living with type 2 diabetes. These educators are certified healthcare professionals with specialized training. Their services are covered by Medicare Part B and many health insurance plans.
You can find out more about diabetes educators through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Managing type 2 diabetes is a lifelong commitment. Type 2 diabetes is typically progressive, but proper management can help slow the progression and prevent or delay complications.
To help manage your type 2 diabetes long term:
In addition to daily management, there are routine checks you should make.
Every three months (or as directed by your healthcare provider), take an HbA1C test. This is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels.
Once a year, have your feet examined by your healthcare provider or a podiatrist. This is to look for sores or infections and to check for a loss of feeling in your feet. See your healthcare provider immediately if you notice cuts, bruises, or numbness in your feet.
You should also have your eyes checked annually for damage to the blood vessels in your eyes. See your healthcare provider immediately if you experience blurred vision.
Check in with your healthcare provider once a year (or as directed by your care provider) to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and kidney function.

Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured but can be managed through a diabetes-friendly eating plan, regular exercise, and sometimes medication.
It is important to begin diabetes management as soon as you are diagnosed.
Diabetes educators can be a helpful resource when you are learning how to live with type 2 diabetes.
Receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming at first. Remember that it’s OK to ask your healthcare provider and diabetes management team plenty of questions. They are here to guide you in the right direction. Also, consider asking for a referral to a diabetes educator who can help you make sense of all this new information.
Type 2 diabetes is considered to be a lifelong condition without a cure.
With effective management, some people with type 2 diabetes can experience a remission in which they stop experiencing signs and symptoms of the condition. If remission is achieved, the person still needs to follow the lifestyle guidance recommended for people with diabetes because relapses can occur.
How often you need to check your blood sugar levels depends on a number of factors. Most people with type 2 diabetes check their blood sugar once or twice a day, but an individual may need to check theirs more or less often. Talk to your healthcare provider about how often and when you should check your blood sugar.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Type 2 diabetes.
American Diabetes Association. Newly diagnosed.
Government of Canada. Type 2 diabetes.
Canadian Diabetes Association. Assess your risk of developing diabetes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes risk factors.
Canadian Diabetes Association. Type 2 symptoms.
National Health Service. What is type 2 diabetes?
diaTribe. Top 10 tips for people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Mount Sinai. Type 2 diabetes.
Harvard Health Publishing. Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
American Diabetes Association. Life doesn’t end with type 2 diabetes.
Taylor R, Al-Mrabeh A, Sattar N. Understanding the mechanisms of reversal of type 2 diabetes. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2019;7(9):726-736. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(19)30076-2
By Heather Jones
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism. 

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