Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease

Find out how to prevent diabetes, how the condition is diagnosed, and the risks associated with it.

Diabetes mellitus is diagnosed when blood sugar levels are higher than normal on more than one occasion. Normal levels are 126 mg/dL or below for fasting blood sugar and 200 mg/dL or below for non-fasting blood sugar. When in doubt, an oral glucose tolerance test is performed. It involves drinking glucose then measuring the body’s response (blood sugar levels) after two hours. If blood sugar levels are higher than normal after two hours, diabetes is diagnosed. If the result is normal, diabetes is ruled out. Another blood test that may be ordered by your physician is glycated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) This is a marker of long-term glucose levels, where levels 6.5% (48 mmol/mol) or higher suggest diabetes.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 is characterized by no or little insulin and manifests usually during childhood; whilst in type 2 diabetes insulin levels are normal or high and the body resists its effects, it manifests in adults age.

Nine out of ten patients with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which shortens life by an average of ten years. It also reduces the number of years lived in good health, due to early heart disease. As a lifestyle disease, type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to a lack of physical activity and obesity.

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by being active, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity at least three days a week, adding up to at least 150 minutes. When you exercise you should be sweating but still able to talk in short sentences. A physically active lifestyle can be started any time; before initiation of regular exercise training, however, a maximum exercise test should be performed by the treating doctor to identify possible heart or vessel disease and to determine the maximal heart rate which is required to tailor an individual and safe exercise prescription.

A heart healthy diet is rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables and low in meat and saturated fat. Eating well helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.