Type 2 Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know

Despite its wide prevalence in the world, there is still a lack of knowledge about type 2 diabetes. Today we resolve the main doubts about the disease.
Type 2 Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 07 August, 2021

According to some researchers, 6.28% of the world’s population suffers from type 2 diabetes. This corresponds to 462 million people. The prevalence of the disease has not stopped increasing in recent decades and it’s estimated that, despite prevention campaigns, it’ll continue to increase in the future.

For this reason, many are calling it an epidemic, one that’s causing more than a million deaths each year (according to data from the World Health Organization). Today we’re going to bring everything together in one place, with a special emphasis on the hidden mechanisms that cause the disease to develop.

What’s type 2 diabetes?

Glycemia and Type 2 Diabetes
Persistently high blood glucose levels are an important feature of diabetes mellitus. This is explained by problems with the hormone insulin.

As Harvard Health Publishing reminds us, type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly. This produces high levels of glucose in the blood that over time can lead to the following:

  • Heart diseases
  • Cerebrovascular accidents
  • Nerve damage or reduced blood flow to the feet
  • Damage to the blood vessels in the eyes
  • Kidney diseases
  • Dental problems
  • Diseases in the bladder

This is just a selection of the complications that can arise from this type of diabetes. It’s often called type 2 diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes. It’s the most common manifestation of the disease, with a case rate of up to 90%, as noted by Diabetes Australia.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas secretes and which fulfills several functions in the body. Two of the most important ones are to regulate glucose levels in the bloodstream (by storing the surplus in your liver or fat reserves) and for the cells of the body to absorb it and use it as energy.

The process begins after you eat food and the digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. The glucose travels to the small intestine and is diverted into the bloodstream through your villi. Once there, insulin performs either of the two functions outlined (among others).

If you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas isn’t able to secrete the proper amount of insulin. It’s also possible that its production is normal, but that the body has become resistant to it.

The effect will always be the same – you’ll have an excess of glucose in the bloodstream. This is why some diabetics have to resort to insulin injections.

Who’s affected by type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that has a higher prevalence in adults. According to Diabetes New Zealand, it usually manifests after 30-40 years of age.

Despite this, children and young people with this variant are increasingly reported. The prevalence in them remains low, approximately 12 and 2.5 per 100,000 inhabitants for the US and Europe, respectively (based on the evidence).

We can say that this type of diabetes affects any age group, although it’s more frequent in the elderly population. The disorderly lifestyle can increase the risk of young people and adults suffering from them, as we’ll see shortly.

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

There are many habits, diseases, and predispositions that can generate disease in the body. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the following:

  • Having prediabetes
  • Having a family history of the disease (especially a parent or sibling)
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being over 45 years old
  • Suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver
  • Having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes
  • Some specific ethnic groups such as African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Japanese (a risk factor supported by the evidence).

In addition to this, maintaining a diet high in trans fats and carbohydrates also increases the risk of suffering from the disease. Studies and research have also found that excess tobacco and alcohol can predispose some people to type 2 diabetes.

Can the disease be cured?

No, there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes. What you can do is to control blood glucose levels, something that you can achieve thanks to different therapies.

Losing weight, exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, taking medications that stimulate the pancreas, injecting insulin, and taking frequent measurements of the values is part of the control.

However, just because you maintain normal glucose levels in your bloodstream doesn’t mean that you have been cured of the disease. This is considered a chronic manifestation; that means that it lasts for many years or a lifetime.

Is diabetes hereditary?

Genes and type 2 diabetes
Genetics are very important when considering risk factors for diabetes mellitus. In fact, it’s common for affected people to have distinct family backgrounds.

We’ve mentioned that if you have a first-degree relative with the condition, you’re more likely to develop it. This is because diabetes has an important genetic component, although, of course, it can also occur in patients without any family history.

Studies and research in this regard have tried to find the genes responsible for the disease. A dozen responsible candidates have been suggested, including PPARG, IRS1, and IRS2, KCNJ11, WFS-1, and HNF1A. Evidence also indicates that epigenetic changes in past generations may explain hereditary predisposition.

Can type 2 diabetes cause a heart attack?

Researchers note that diabetics have two to four times the risk of having coronary heart disease compared to non-diabetics. This is because, in part, both conditions share many risk factors (age, sedentary life, obesity, a diet high in fat and carbohydrates, among others).

Coronary artery disease can cause angina or a heart attack. If you include changes in your lifestyle, you won’t only avoid the appearance of both diseases, but also more than a dozen others related to the risk factors mentioned above.

We hope that, with these answers, you have increased your understanding of the disease. For more information, you can review all the articles we have prepared on diabetes. These include your symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, and you can find them throughout this article. Watch this space for more articles on the topic. Here’s one to get you started:

  • Ali, O. Genetics of type 2 diabetes. World journal of diabetes. 2013; 4(4): 114.
  • Ali MK, Narayan KM, Tandon N. Diabetes & coronary heart disease: current perspectives. Indian J Med Res. 2010 Nov;132(5):584-97.
  • Barroso, I. Genetics of type 2 diabetes. Diabetic Medicine. 2005; 22(5): 517-535.
  • Carlsson, S., Hammar, N., & Grill, V. Alcohol consumption and type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2005; 48(6): 1051-1054.
  • Khan MAB, Hashim MJ, King JK, Govender RD, Mustafa H, Al Kaabi J. Epidemiology of Type 2 Diabetes – Global Burden of Disease and Forecasted Trends. J Epidemiol Glob Health. 2020 Mar;10(1):107-111.
  • Raciti GA, Longo M, Parrillo L, Ciccarelli M, Mirra P, Ungaro P, Formisano P, Miele C, Béguinot F. Understanding type 2 diabetes: from genetics to epigenetics. Acta Diabetol. 2015 Oct;52(5):821-7.
  • Soto, N. Tabaquismo y Diabetes. Revista chilena de enfermedades respiratorias. 2017; 33(3): 222-224.
  • Wilmot E, Idris I. Early onset type 2 diabetes: risk factors, clinical impact and management. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2014 Nov;5(6):234-44.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.