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Understanding the risk and lifestyle factors that effect Type 2 Diabetes is important for managing the condition effectively.

Type 2 Diabetes is a condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin. The cause is unknown, but it does have strong genetic and family-related risk factors and is associated with modifiable lifestyle factors.

Cause of type 2 diabetes

Diabetes runs in the family. If you have a family member with diabetes, you have a genetic disposition to the condition.

While people may have a strong genetic disposition towards type 2 diabetes, the risk is greatly increased if people display a number of modifiable lifestyle factors including high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and the classic ‘apple shape’ body where extra weight is carried around the waist.

Many people with type 2 diabetes display no symptoms.

People are at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes if they:

  • have a family history of diabetes
  • are older (over 55 years of age) – the risk increases as we age
  • are over 45 years of age and are overweight
  • are over 45 years of age and have high blood pressure
  • are over 35 years of age and are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • are over 35 years of age and are from Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background
  • are a woman who has given birth to a child over 4.5 kgs (9 lbs), or had gestational diabetes when pregnant, or had a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.


As type 2 diabetes is commonly (but not always) diagnosed at a later age, sometimes signs are dismissed as a part of ‘getting older’. In some cases, by the time type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the complications of diabetes may already be present.

Symptoms include:

Being excessively thirsty
Passing more urine
Feeling tired and lethargic
Always feeling hungry
Having cuts that heal slowly
Itching, skin infections
Blurred vision
Gradually putting on weight
Mood swings
Feeling dizzy
Leg cramps

Managing Type 2 Diabetes

While there is currently no cure for type 2 diabetes, the condition can be managed through lifestyle modifications and medication. Effectively managing diabetes is the best way to prevent diabetes-related complications.

85–90 percent of all cases of diabetes are Type 2 Diabetes

The aim of diabetes management is to keep blood glucose levels as close to the target range between 4 to 6 mmol/L (fasting), this will help prevent both short-term and long-term complications.

Initially, type 2 diabetes can often be managed with healthy eating and regular physical activity. Over time many people with type 2 diabetes will also need tablets and some may eventually require insulin. It is important to note that this is normal, and taking tablets or insulin as soon as they are required can result in fewer long-term complications.

  • Eating well helps manage your blood glucose levels and your body weight
  • Exercising helps the insulin work more effectively, lowers your blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Regular blood glucose monitoring tests whether the treatment being followed is helping to manage blood glucose levels or whether you need to adjust your treatment.

Learn more about the right type of exercise for managing Type 2 Diabetes.

Your healthcare team including your doctor, specialist, dietician and Credential Diabetes Educator, can help you with blood glucose monitoring, healthy eating and physical activity.

However, sometimes healthy eating and exercise is not enough to keep blood glucose levels within target range. Over time the pancreas sometimes produces less insulin and the body may continue to be resistant to insulin if lifestyle changes such as weight loss and increased physical activity are not made. Insulin helps convert glucose into energy, which means that as type 2 diabetes develops, the pancreas may not be able to produce enough insulin to meet the body’s requirements. To help the pancreas produce more insulin, or to make the insulin that the body produces work better, people with type 2 diabetes are often prescribed tablets to keep their blood glucose levels in target range.

Eventually some people may need to start taking insulin to manage blood glucose levels. This is when your body is no longer producing enough insulin of its own. Sometimes tablets may be continued in addition to insulin.

If you require medication as treatment, it is important to note that this is part of the natural development of the condition, and taking medication when required can result in fewer complications in the long-term.

The tablets or injections are intended to be used together with healthy eating and regular physical activity, not as a substitute.

Occasionally, side effects can occur with medications. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you experience any problems. An alternative medication is usually available.

Check your risk – answer 10 short questions on the diabetes risk calculator.

Find out more about using exercise as medicine to manage Type 2 Diabetes.