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Diabetes is a disease that causes blood sugar levels to be too high. Over time high blood sugar levels can hurt many parts of your body, such as your skin, mouth, kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes, and feet. It can even cause death.

Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — is a growing problem throughout the Pacific Islands. For instance, Native Hawaiians between the ages of 19 and 35 are more than five times as likely as same-age non-Hawaiians to have diabetes. The reasons for this health disparity are not clearly understood. Yet, Pacific peoples have many risk factors for diabetes, such as high rates of obesity.

You can't control some risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as your age, race, or family history. But you can prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes by taking these steps:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor to find out what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Eat low-fat, well-balanced meals.
  • Make physical activity a habit. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
    • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
    • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
    • A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity
    • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.

You could have type 2 diabetes and not know it. Type 2 diabetes sometimes has no warning signs. Talk to your doctor about diabetes in your family. Get your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels checked regularly, as advised by your doctor. If you find out you have diabetes, you can take steps to manage the disease and live a full and active life. Making healthy eating and physical activity a regular part of your family life also will help to lower your loved ones' risk of diabetes.

There are other forms of diabetes:

  • Gestational diabetes is too high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy. But you are at higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-making cells. It is far less common than type 2 and often starts in childhood. There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

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More information on Diabetes

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Diabetes Fact Sheet - This fact sheet discusses the risk factors for and signs, symptoms, and treatments of diabetes in women.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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