[Extracted from WebMD.com]
Diabetes is a number of diseases that involve problems with the hormone insulin. While not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, obesity and lack of physical activity are two of the most common causes of this form of diabetes. It is also responsible for nearly 95% of diabetes cases in the United States, according to the CDC.
This article will give you a better understanding of the causes of type 2 diabetes, what happens in the body when type 2 diabetes occurs, and specific health problems that increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Each section links to more in-depth information on that topic.
In a healthy person, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar from the food you eat. Diabetes happens when one of the following occurs:
- When the pancreas does not produce any insulin.
- When the pancreas produces very little insulin.
- When the body does not respond appropriately to insulin, a condition called "insulin resistance."
Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes produce insulin; however, the insulin their pancreas secretes is either not enough or the body is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly. This is called insulin-resistance. When there isn't enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose (sugar) can't get into the body's cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the body's cells are unable to function properly.
The Role of Insulin in the Cause of Type 2 Diabetes
To understand why insulin is important, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy. Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, these cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of your food is broken down into a simple sugar called "glucose." Then, glucose is transported through the bloodstream to the cells of your body where it can be used to provide the energy your body needs for daily activities.
The amount of glucose in your bloodstream is tightly regulated by the hormone insulin. Insulin is always being released in small amounts by the pancreas. When the amount of glucose in your blood rises to a certain level, the pancreas will release more insulin to push more glucose into the cells. This causes the glucose levels in your blood (blood glucose levels) to drop.
To keep your blood glucose levels from getting too low (hypoglycemia or low blood sugar), your body signals you to eat and releases some glucose from the stores kept in the liver.
People with diabetes either don't make insulin or their body's cells no longer are able to recognize insulin, leading to high blood sugars. By definition, diabetes is having a blood glucose level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more after an overnight fast (not eating anything), or by having a non-fasting glucose level greater than or equal to 200 (mg/d) or an AIC greater than or equal to 6.5%. Diabetes must be confirmed by meeting at least two of these test criteria, or by repeating one of these tests on a different day.
Health Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is believed to have a strong genetic link, meaning that it tends to run in families. Several genes are being studied that may be related to the cause of type 2 diabetes. If you have any of the following type 2 diabetes risk factors, it’s important to ask your doctor about a diabetes test. With a proper diabetes diet and healthy lifestyle habits, along with diabetes medication, if necessary, you can manage your type 2 diabetes just like you manage other areas of your life. Be sure to continue seeking the latest information on type 2 diabetes as you become your own health advocate.
Other type 2 diabetes risk factors include the following:
- High blood pressure
- High blood triglyceride (fat) levels
- Gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- High-fat diet
- High alcohol intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Obesity or being overweight
- Ethnicity: Certain groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Japanese Americans, have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
- Aging: Increasing age is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes begins to rise significantly at about age 45 years, and rises considerably after age 65 years.