New report provides a plan for living with type 2 diabetes

Anthony Komaroff, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

These days, when I must give one of my patients the bad news that he or she has type 2 diabetes, the response is sometimes along the lines of “Well, I figured it was just a matter of time before that happened.”

Many people suspect they are on a collision course with type 2 diabetes, but don’t know how to steer clear of it. Many others have diabetes but don’t know how to control it.

Before going any farther, let me clarify that I am talking about type 2 diabetes, what used to be called adult-onset and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. It begins when muscle cells have trouble responding to insulin, a hormone that ushers glucose (blood sugar) into cells. Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset and insulin-dependent diabetes) is a different story. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages insulin-making cells in the pancreas.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% of all cases of diabetes. It is also on the rise. Fifty years ago, about 1.6 million Americans had type 2 diabetes. Today, nearly 20 million have been diagnosed with it, and almost half again as many have type 2 diabetes but don’t know it.

Living with a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes can be confusing. We have created Diabetes: A plan you can live with to provide a clear road map for people with this condition. This updated Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publishing covers the basics of living with type 2 diabetes, from monitoring blood sugar and managing medications to losing weight and working with health-care providers. A separate report, Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes, covers strategies for eating well with type 2 diabetes, and offers 40 recipes that follow the healthy eating guidelines the report describes.

As my colleague Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says in Diabetes: A plan you can live with, “It’s not just possible to live with diabetes; it’s possible to live well.”


  1. Odilon CARRE

    High glucose levels in Type I are due to a lack of insulin because the insulin producing cells have been destroyed. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin that is being produced.

  2. How To Control Diabetes Type 2

    Hi, Many of the signs of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are similar. In both, there is too much glucose in the blood and not enough in the cells of your body. High glucose levels in Type I are due to a lack of insulin because the insulin producing cells have been destroyed. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin that is being produced. Either way, your cells aren’t getting the glucose that they need, and your body lets you know by giving you these signs and symptoms.

    Top Warning Signs:

    1. Frequent times urination

    2. Unquenchable Thirst

    3. Losing Weight Without Trying

    4. Weakness and Fatigue

    5. Tingling or Numbness in Your Hands, Legs or Feet

    6. Other Signs and Symptoms That Can Occur:

    Blurred vision, skin that is dry or itchy, frequent infections or cuts and bruises that take a long time to heal are also signs that something is amiss. Again, when these signs are associated with diabetes, they are the result of high glucose levels in the body. If you notice any of the above signs, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to tell you if you have reason to be concerned about a diagnosis of diabetes.

  3. NeldaCanales

    My husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 199 he didn’t want to take the meds the Dr prescribe so he follow a sensible diet 2 weeks later his sugar went down 50 points it kept going down every few days things slow down a bit but it never went up he’s doing so well at 100 and lost 40 pounds this is what we do No process foods no sugar no white flour …we eat eggs ,fruits ,almonds ,peanut butter whole grain bread ,corn tortillas ,vegetables ,chicken ,fish ,salmon ,brown rice ,beans and my husband eats a bowl of oatmeal with a little honey and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon every day ,20 minute slow walk 3 or 4 times a week .

    • Dan Paradoa

      Que bueno Nelda! Just to show you eating God’s food for us will make us healthy and not get sick. We run into problems when we eat processed foods, etc. Eating food in the most natural state is the key. Congratulations, may God continue providing your husband with great health! Cuidate mucho Nelda. Dios te bendiga!

      • Tina Rigdon

        That’s ridiculous. Type I Diabetes has nothing to do with diet. You’re born with it. Is that a part of God’s Plan?!?

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