Decoding type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. The disease often develops in stages, starting as prediabetes or insulin resistance. People with prediabetes have elevated blood glucose (sugar), but it isn’t high enough to be classified as diabetes.

Diabetics tend to have too much glucose circulating in their blood, which, if left unregulated, can lead to blindness, heart attacks, stroke, nerve damage, amputations and even death. Unlike type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes can still make insulin, but they develop insulin resistance. That means that the body doesn’t properly use the insulin hormone that the pancreas produces, which leads to it making more insulin.

Insulin helps the cells absorb glucose so that they can use it for energy. As the process of producing more and more insulin continues, the pancreas is unable to meet the demand as the blood glucose levels remains too high and type 2 diabetes occurs. In some instances, the cells that produce the insulin become severely impaired or destroyed and the diabetic requires insulin to help regulate blood glucose.

Blood Glucose 101

With medication and monitoring, diabetics attempt a delicate balancing act to keep their blood glucose within the normal range. If their blood glucose is too low, it can lead to injuries, coma and even death. The symptoms of low blood glucose happen quickly and can include symptoms such as shakiness, confusion, unconsciousness or dizziness. If their blood glucose is too high, then its more devastating effects usually occur over prolonged periods of time, but immediate symptoms include excessive thirst and frequent urination.

Below are the target blood glucose levels for diabetics:

  • Fasting: 70–120 mg/dl
  • After meals (1-2 hours): Less than 140 mg/dl

Are you at risk?

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million Americans have diabetes. Of that number, there are 7 million people with the disease who are undiagnosed. In addition, there are a staggering 79 million people with prediabetes.

7 million Americans live with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes Click To Tweet

If this trend continues, by 2050, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes. One of the biggest contributing factors is the rise in obesity. If you have one or more of the following risk factors, talk to your doctor about testing and prevention:

  • Age 45 or older
  • Overweight
  • Physically inactive
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Had gestational diabetes
  • Have prediabetes
  • African-American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Pacific Islander
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Dark velvety hyper pigmented skin around the neck or armpits

Take control

If you suspect that you have diabetes, schedule a doctor’s appointment to check your blood glucose and to test your hemoglobin A1c, which will give you an idea of your blood glucose levels over the last three months.

To asses your diabetes risk, have your blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c tested Click To Tweet

“You also want to ask your doctor to check your cholesterol and blood pressure, as these risk factors many times cluster together, especially in overweight individuals,” said Dr. Manisha Chandalia, an endocrinologist at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital.

If you have diabetes, check your blood regularly and consider enrolling in the Houston Methodist Diabetes Education Program.


Reviewed by Dr. Manisha Chandalia

Sheshe Giddens

Sheshe Giddens

Senior Editor at Houston Methodist
Sheshe champions the hospital system's brand. As an avid technology enthusiast, Sheshe's (pronounced shay shay) personal mission is to stop the rampant misuse of the em dash and to promote becoming computer savvy in the 21st century.
Sheshe Giddens

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Sheshe Giddens

Sheshe champions the hospital system's brand. As an avid technology enthusiast, Sheshe's (pronounced shay shay) personal mission is to stop the rampant misuse of the em dash and to promote becoming computer savvy in the 21st century.

  • Laura

    We should aim for these numbers? Aren’t they above “organ damage” level? I’d freak if my numbers were as high as what you label “target”. Frightening info!

    • Thanks for your question, @disqus_gqPvlhAyoc:disqus. “Target” means range and is used in reference to those already diagnosed with diabetes. So, if you’re diabetic, you’d want your fasting blood glucose below 120 mg/dl. The closer you are to 70 mg/dl when fasting, the better. Hope this clears things up for you. – Jason

      • Your reply is so full of BS …. target means target. You post numbers that are harmfully high.

        Sub 180 after meals???? Is laughable if not so harmful. Why not say sub 200? 300?

        • We appreciate you sharing a comment with us, @stevecooksey:disqus, and know from all your tweets and blog posts that you care deeply about this topic. Please see our response to @disqus_gqPvlhAyoc:disqus. As we noted, target means range in this context. This blog was written to educate those with type 2 diabetes about ranges/targets so they can move from very elevated blood glucose levels toward that target/range area with the goal of continually getting their blood glucose lower and more stable. For example, the closer an individual can get to 70 mg/dl when fasted, the better. Also, our author talks about long-term marker tests like hemoglobin A1c. Doctors at @houstonmethodist:disqus offer many different approaches to tacking issues such as diabetes. For example, Dr. Joseph Galati has written about and has a favorable opinion of the paleo diet ( and Dr. Kota J. Reddy advocates a low-carb diet for treating diabetes and cardiovascular issues ( – Jason

          • Targets are something you aim for. You can play the semantics game all you want…,

            Regardless, you are implying these are at the very least acceptable ranges. That is unacceptable.

          • Please see my reply to your reply to Laura.

  • Gerald Nelson

    The more you know about your Peripheral Neuropathy, the better able you will be to beat if for good. I highly recommend Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy sufferers to read this article: “10 Things You Need to Know about Peripheral Neuropathy, the New American Epidemic” by Dr. Randall. It is a very good article and you will discover the little-known truths about neuropathy’s vexing & mysterious symptoms. Also, you will learn what it is in particular about diabetes that so often leads to the development of peripheral neuropathy, and what you can do about it today.

    Link to article: healthandremedies*org/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-peripheral-neuropathy-the-new-american-epidemic/
    (please change * to a DOT for I cannot post links here, thanks!)

    Good luck!