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HealthInfo Canterbury

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes happens when your body can’t use insulin properly (insulin resistance). This makes your blood glucose (sugar) levels high.

You are at greater risk of getting type 2 diabetes if you:

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Some people with type 2 diabetes don't have symptoms, so it's important to have a screening blood test.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include:

Preventing type 2 diabetes

Have a screening blood test to check if you are heading towards getting diabetes (prediabetes).

If you're male and 45 or older, or female and 55 or older, you should have a blood screening test as part of a check of your risk of heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease).

If you are at higher risk (Māori, Pasifika, Asian, family history, diabetes in pregnancy, or are overweight) you should start screening earlier.

Eat well with regular meals. For more information, see Eating well.

Staying physically active can prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days, and to spend less time sitting. For more information, see Keeping active.

Being a healthy weight can prevent or delay the start of diabetes. If you are overweight, losing only 5 to 10% can make a difference. For more information, see Tips to help you lose weight.

Diagnosing type 2 diabetes

A blood test called HbA1c measures the amount of sugar in your blood over the last two to three months. You have diabetes if your HbA1c results are higher than 50.

Treating type 2 diabetes

Eating well, being physically active and aiming for a healthy weight are the main treatments for type 2 diabetes. If lifestyle measures aren't enough by themselves, your doctor may recommend tablets or insulin.

You will also need regular checks for complications, which may need treatment.

Medications for type 2 diabetes

Metformin is the most commonly used medication. It helps your body use insulin to reduce your blood sugar. It also helps some people lose weight.

Tummy upset is the commonest side effect with metformin. If you get very sick, especially with vomiting and diarrhoea, stop taking your metformin and talk to your doctor.

Other medications include:


You might need to start insulin injections.

There are lots of types of insulin and ways of giving it. Your doctor and nurse will find what suits you best.

For more information about insulin, see Managing insulin.


You will also need regular check‑ups for complications of diabetes, and you'll need treatment if you develop the complications.

Self‑care for type 2 diabetes

Eating well with diabetes, including reducing the amount of added and natural sugars, is most important.

Regular physical activity can reduce blood glucose, and if you are overweight it can help you lose weight. See Sport Canterbury's Activities Directory for information about diabetes exercise classes.

Aim to be a healthy weight, as weight loss can treat type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, losing just 5 to 10% will be helpful.

Don't smoke.

Getting help for type 2 diabetes

The following health care professionals can help:

For support and information:

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2019.

Page reference: 44406

Review key: HIDIA-21832