If you have type 2 diabetes, your body
gradually stops making enough insulin and becomes less able to use the
insulin it does make effectively. With too little insulin, your body
cannot absorb glucose from the food you eat and your blood glucose
levels rise and become harmful to your health.
Understanding the connection between insulin, blood glucose and your average blood glucose levels over time – also known as HbA1c – is an important first step towards controlling type 2 diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone released by your pancreas when you eat. Its job
is to help your body absorb glucose from food so it can be used for
energy. This means that when your insulin levels go up, your blood
glucose levels go down.
If your body cannot produce or use insulin properly, your blood glucose levels stay high, and you may need medication to bring them back into a healthy range. Oral medications can help while your body still produces some insulin, but most people will eventually need to add insulin injections to control their blood glucose.
High blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia) damage your blood vessels. This can reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your body's organs and nerves and, over time, cause serious health complications.
Controlling your blood glucose levels will help you avoid complications like:
People with diabetes who are on medication, especially insulin therapy, need to be aware of the signs of low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia or 'a hypo'). Medications can sometimes make blood glucose drop too low. This can be dangerous and you need to know what to do if it happens.
The signs of hypoglycaemia are:
It's important to act immediately if you notice the symptoms of a hypo, otherwise you could start feeling tired and confused, and may even lose consciousness. Treat a hypo by eating or drinking 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate, for instance:
Why is HbA1c important?
HbA1c is a measure of your blood glucose levels over the
last two to three months. Your healthcare professional will perform a
blood test to measure your HbA1c and use this to set a
target blood glucose range for you.
If you have type 2 diabetes, every 1% drop in HbA1c reduces your risk of complications. The HbA1c target ranges for people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are shown on the right.
A type 2 diagnosis doesn't mean you should expect less out of life.
But you will need to learn how to manage your blood glucose for
different situations and activities so you can stay healthy and
active. We have lots of information and resources to help you get
Get tips for living well with type 2 diabetes
Our Disease Experience Expert Panels (DEEPs) bring together individuals living with serious chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, to provide insights and advice based on their experiences.