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What is Type 2 diabetes and how is it linked to obesity?

25 June 2019

Type 2 diabetes represents around 90% of people with diabetes1. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, or the body cannot properly use the insulin it does create. Eventually, the pancreas may stop producing insulin altogether.

Type 2 diabetes can affect people at any age. Type 2 diabetes can develop slowly and the signs may not be obvious. Additional risk factors or characteristics for Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Age – being over 40 can increase your risk
  • If you have or had high blood pressure
  • Family history of diabetes
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Race/Ethnicity such as African-Caribbean, or South Asian descent

One of the biggest risk factors for Type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese, which itself can cause insulin resistance and lead to high blood glucose levels. In England, obese adults are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than adults of a healthy weight2.

"The link between the two conditions is important because obesity substantially increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes2."
- Public Health England

Being overweight or obese is the main ‘modifiable’ risk factors for Type 2 diabetes2, which means that taking early action to reduce your weight can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Create healthy habits

The first step you can take to reduce your risk is making positive changes to your lifestyle. This may mean looking at your diet and taking more exercise. Lifestyle interventions have been found to delay or prevent progression to Type 2 diabetes2.

There are a variety of health benefits, both physical and mental, from spending less time sitting down and being more physically active. This includes improved sleep, stress management, and quality of life to name a few3. But it’s not just physical activity that matters, eating well is also important regardless of whether you have diabetes or not. What you choose to eat or drink influences how well you feel and how much energy you have every day. Making small changes to improve your eating habits and activity levels can make a big difference!

Lose weight if necessary

It’s no secret that weight can be a sensitive issue, particularly as not everyone with Type 2 diabetes is overweight4. But whether you want to lose a few pounds or are a healthy weight already – the evidence shows that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight will benefit your health.

Being overweight can make your diabetes more difficult to control as excess weight can make it harder for your body to use insulin properly. Losing weight if you are carrying extra pounds is a good choice, not just to feel better but for the long-term health benefits too.

Talk to your healthcare team

If you are on any tablets, remember to let your healthcare team know if you are thinking about starting a new lifestyle programme or making any changes. Your doses and medication may need to be adjusted as you start to lose weight and become more active.

Discover the OurPath programme designed to help you build healthier habits, change your lifestyle behaviours and lose weight.

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  1. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/what-is-type-2-diabetes
  2. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338934/Adult_obesity_and_type_2_diabetes_.pdf
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/541233/Physical_activity_infographic.PDF [accessed 27.11.2017]
  4. Eckel RH, Kahn SE, Ferrannini E, et al. Obesity and type 2 diabetes: what can be unified and what needs to be individualized? Diabetes Care 2011;34(6):1424-30. doi: 10.2337/dc11-0447. Epub 2011 May 20.

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