What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes progresses when the insulin-producing cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly.

This is also known as insulin resistance. Generally in these cases the body is still producing insulin but there is not enough insulin or the insulin isn’t working properly, so the cells are only partially unlocked, which causes a build up of glucose in the blood.

Not sure how serious it is?

Too much glucose causes damage to the body systems, particularly nerves and blood vessels leading to amputations and causing heart attack, stroke and other life-threatening complications. However, with the proper care, it can be managed and these complications can be avoided.

Type 2 diabetes is also related to other health problems such as high blood pressure and high levels of blood fats like cholesterol.

Simple lifestyle changes can reduce
your family’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes in the family

Has one of your family members got type 2 diabetes? Don’t think it affects you? Think again!

A survey completed by Diabetes NSW showed that only 22% of people in Australia were aware of the risk associated with family history. American studies further revealed only one third of parents with type 2 diabetes thought their children would also develop the condition. Only 38% of siblings of people living with type 2 diabetes thought their risk would increase.

Studies show that parents with type 2 diabetes increase the risk of developing the condition for their children. Often the cause of type 2 is linked to lifestyle factors and more closely to genetic inheritance. It has also been found that the closer the relative, the higher the risk and the sooner you may develop it.

What the statistics show:

  • If one identical twin has type 2 diabetes, the chance of glucose intolerance in the other twin is up to 90%
  • Having a sister or brother with type 2 diabetes increases the risk by more than four times
  • If one parent has type 2 diabetes, the children have double the risk of developing the condition
  • If both parents have type 2 diabetes, the children are six times more likely to develop the condition and the average age of diagnosis is 39 years old
  • Where neither parent has diabetes, the average age for diagnosis is 48 years old
  • The more cases of diabetes found in a family, the younger the age of onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Mothers present a greater risk to children than fathers. A study conducted at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital found that diabetes is twice as common when the mother had diabetes
  • The more relatives with type 2 diabetes the higher the risk for other family members – for example, three relatives with the condition can increase the risk by almost 15 times
  • The American Diabetes Association estimates that a child has a 1 in 7 chance of developing diabetes if the parent is diagnosed before the age of 50, compared to a 1 in 13 change if their parent is diagnosed after 50 years old.



Type 2 diabetes in children

While type 2 diabetes is more common in adults aged 40 or older, it is increasingly becoming more common in children, adolescents and young people of all ethnicities.

The risk of type 2 diabetes in young people can be reduced with lifestyle changes that encourage healthy eating, regular physical activity and achieving a healthy weight.

Type 2 diabetes and lifestyle factors

Aside from running in the family, lifestyle can also lead people to develop type 2 diabetes.

What the statistics say:

  • Obese adults are four times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • Overweight adults are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • A study taken in the United States and United Kingdom, found that overweight and obese adults are more likely to have a family history of diabetes – indicating lifestyle plays a part in developing the condition.

What you can do

The good news is you can reduce your family’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by adopting simple lifestyle changes. People with pre-diabetes can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58%.

Studies have also shown that while two thirds of people know they have type 2 diabetes in their family, only a third actively collect health information to develop a family medical history.

Diabetes NSW & ACT - Live your life