How Long Can You Live with Diabetes Without Knowing

How long can you live with diabetes without knowing? Around half a billion people in the world are living with diabetes. It is common for someone to have diabetes without even knowing it. In this article, I’ll discuss how long you can go without knowing you have diabetes, as well as prevention tips.

How long can you go with having diabetes before knowing you have it? If you have mild to moderate high blood sugar levels (mild diabetes), you could live a long, full life. You could even live up to the normal life expectancy of age 70 to 80 years. The reason is that you won’t likely notice or suffer from any symptoms with mild high blood sugar levels.

The problem with diabetes, however, is that it can gradually become worse. According to Diabetes UK, if your blood sugar levels keep rising, your life expectancy reduces by 10 to 20 years.

Read on to learn more about how long you can live with diabetes without knowing you have it, its symptoms, as well as some prevention tips.

How Long Can You Live with Diabetes Without Knowing?

It usually depends on the type of diabetes you are afflicted with. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. On average, those who have type 1 diabetes can expect a shorter life span than those who have type 2 diabetes. Generally, type 1 is characterized by a complete lack of insulin, while type 2 results from a low-quality lifestyle.

The symptoms of diabetes range from being deceptively mild to very debilitating. Those with type 1 diabetes can be hospitalized, consequently diagnosed, and have the proper medical intervention. If there is no immediate intervention, the body will experience extensive damage, and in some cases, the person can lose his life quickly.

With type 2 diabetes, life expectancy is generally longer. However, it also depends on several factors, such as the body’s remaining capability to produce insulin, the degree of insulin resistance, diet, body weight, exercise, and quality of life.

Onset of Diabetes

The onset of diabetes is slow. Its initial symptoms are not very clear, as well. For type 2 diabetes, it can take years to develop. Some may have lived with the disease for 14 years before their diagnosis. They are living normal ‘healthy’ lives before they ‘discovered’ they have it.

Others had suffered some of the symptoms since their childhood years with no life-threatening effects but were only diagnosed with the disease when they were already 29 years old. They only discovered they had the disease when they went in for a blood test.

So, if you have type 2 diabetes with moderate-high blood sugar levels, you could live a full life. You could even live up to 70 to 80 years old, which is the normal life expectancy of humans. Moreover, you won’t likely notice or suffer from any symptoms because you only have mild high blood sugar levels.

How Long Can You Expect to Live with Diabetes?

A report titled “Diabetes in the UK 2010: Key Statistics on Diabetes” estimates that the life expectancy of people who have type 2 diabetes is likely to be cut short as much as ten years. Diabetes UK published this report.

The same report also estimated a much shorter life expectancy of a person who has type 1 diabetes. A person’s life can be reduced by more than 20 years with type 1 diabetes. Thankfully, recent medical developments in diabetic care suggest that the lives of people with type 1 diabetes are getting considerably longer today.

One 30-year study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh that came out in 2012 noted that the life expectancy of diabetic patients born after 1965 was 69 years. That is not too far from the normal, healthy person’s life expectancy, which is about 77 years for male adults and 81 years for females, as reported by the Office for National Statistics.

Diabetics, in general, have shorter life spans because of the following factors:

  • They Have High Blood Sugar – This symptom can be accompanied by high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and poor blood circulation, which may lead to problems in the eyes, heart, kidneys, and most especially the nerves.
  • Most of Them Have High Blood Pressure – This symptom causes other complications to set in like kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy, and cardiovascular diseases.

What Is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

how long can you go with having diabetes before knowing you have it

Basically, diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body regulates glucose or blood sugar. The fuel that provides food for the cells in your body is glucose. To be able to enter your cells, it needs a key called insulin. Those with type 1 diabetes are not able to produce insulin. They don’t have the key to allow glucose to enter the cells.

However, those who have type 2 diabetes can produce insulin but not enough of it. It means that they also have insulin problems. In their later years, most of them will be unable to produce insulin. It’s like having a broken key, which they cannot use to allow glucose to enter their cells.

Both types of diabetes often lead to chronic high levels of blood sugar. This chronic condition increases the risks of developing diabetic complications. While they are given the same medical term with just a difference in numbers, these two types of diabetes have different causes.

Type 1 Vs. Type 2 Diabetes

The immune system of those who have type 1 diabetes mistakenly considers the healthy cells of the body as foreign invaders. It attacks and then destroys the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. When these pancreatic cells are destroyed, the body is no longer able to produce insulin.

A type 2 diabetic person, on the other hand, has insulin resistance. His body can still produce insulin, but it is unable to use it effectively. Although researchers are not sure why, they have correlated the condition to lifestyle factors, such as inactivity and being overweight. Genetic and other environmental factors may also contribute to this condition.

The pancreas of a person with type 2 diabetes will produce more insulin to compensate for the condition. However, his body cannot use insulin effectively, so glucose levels in his bloodstream will accumulate.

According to the CDC, most undiagnosed diabetes cases fall in the type 2 category. There are two reasons for this assumption. First, about 90-95 percent of all diabetes cases are type 2. Second, type 1 diabetes develops quickly in a matter of a couple of weeks, not years. Thus, the symptoms and signs of type 1 diabetes come in fast.

How Many In the U.S. and Other Countries Have Diabetes?

Diabetes has become common all over the world. Here are some statistics that will show the prevalence of this disease in some developed countries.

United States Statistics

According to the recent National Diabetes Statistics Report, about 34.2 million people in the United States, or approximately 10.5 percent of the American population, have diabetes. About 88 million American adults, or roughly a third of the Americans, have prediabetes.

It also reports a significant increase in the new diagnoses of type 1 and type 2 diabetes among the U.S. youth. In addition, the percentage of American adults who were aware that they have prediabetes has doubled from the year 2005 to 2016. However, most Americans are still unaware of their condition.

UK Statistics

According to, as of 2018/2019, there are a total of 3.2 million individuals in the diabetes registry of the United Kingdom. The percentage of individuals with type 1 diabetes who are below 40 years old is 44.6 percent. Males with type 1 diabetes constitute about 56.7 percent of the total number.

Canada Statistics

As of 2017, 7.3 percent of Canadians, 12 years and older, are reported to be diagnosed with diabetes. This percentage is roughly 2.3 million individuals. From 2016 to 2017, the percentage of males diagnosed with diabetes increased from 7.6 percent to 8.4 percent.

Australia Statistics

From 2017 to 2018, approximately 1.2 million individuals in Australia had diabetes. This number constitutes about 4.9 percent of the Australian population. The data is extracted from a report issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017-2018 National Health Survey.

We’ve answered ‘how long can you live with diabetes without knowing?’; next, let’s look at the symptoms and warning signs of diabetes that you should watch out for.

What Are the Symptoms and Warning Signs of Diabetes?

how long you can live with diabetes without knowing you have it

As reported by the American Diabetes Association, the following are the symptoms and early signs of diabetes. Both types of diabetes can manifest these symptoms:

  • Increased appetite
  • Severe fatigue
  • Acute thirst
  • Yeast infections
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Unusually sleepy after meals
  • Tingling sensation in the legs, hands, or toes
  • Bruises, blisters, or cuts that heal slowly
  • Rapid loss of weight (for type 1)
  • Foul-smelling or sour breath

How Can You Prevent Diabetes?

If you don’t want to get diabetes, you must practice a healthy lifestyle. Having good blood circulation, maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, and normal blood pressure are all recommended. Here are some ways that can prevent this disease from destroying your health.

1. Reduce Your Weight If You Are Obese

A study involving over 1,000 people with prediabetes shows a diabetes risk reduction of 16 percent for every kilogram of weight that the participants lost.

Another study showed that overweight individuals who were able to decrease their insulin and blood sugar levels by reducing their weight had experienced increased blood sugar and insulin levels after regaining all the weight they were able to reduce.

2. Use Water as Your Main Beverage

A 24-week study revealed that obese adults (after undergoing a weight loss program), who drank water instead of their regular diet sodas, showed a reduction in fasting blood sugar, insulin levels, and insulation resistance. Only drinking water helps avoid consuming beverages with high levels of sugar, preservatives, and other harmful ingredients.

3. Reduce Sugar and Refined Carbs Intake

A lot of studies have shown the correlation between high intake of sugar or refined carbs and diabetes. Therefore, it is better to replace these food types with foods that have lesser effects on blood sugar.

An analysis done on 37 studies also revealed that people who have the highest intake of carbs have a 40 percent chance of developing diabetes than those with the lowest carb intake.

4. Reduce Your Food Portions

A two-year study involving prediabetic men showed that those who followed healthy nutrition and ate reduced food portions had lowered their risk of developing diabetes by 46 percent – compared to those who did not change their nutritional lifestyle.

5. Eat a Low Carb Diet

Eating a low-carb diet will not cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Your body will require less insulin to sustain the healthy levels of your blood sugar. A 12-week study of prediabetic individuals revealed that the participants’ insulin levels were reduced by 50 percent in the low-carb group. Moreover, there was a 12 percent decrease in their blood sugar levels.

The blood sugar levels of individuals in the low-fat group also dropped by only 1 percent and the insulin levels by only 19 percent. It showed that on both counts, the low-carb diet is better than the low-fat diet.

6. Exercise Regularly

Physical activity is also very important in preventing the onset of diabetes. Regular exercise can increase your cells’ sensitivity to insulin. When you perform an exercise routine, your body will require less insulin to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

7. Be Physically Active as You Can

Some studies show the link between the risk of diabetes and sedentary behavior. An analysis was conducted on 47 studies and revealed that those who spend a large portion of their time every day sedentary have a 91 percent risk of developing diabetes. Just standing up and moving around away from your desk for a couple of minutes every hour can put diabetes at bay.

Conclusion – How Long Can You Live with Diabetes Without Knowing?

So, to recap, how long can you live with diabetes without knowing? If you have mild diabetes or have moderately high blood sugar levels, you could live a long, full life.

You could even live up to the normal life expectancy of 70 to 80 years. The reason is that with mild high blood sugar levels, you won’t likely notice or suffer from any symptoms.

According to Diabetes UK, if your blood sugar levels keep rising, your life expectancy reduces by 10 to 20 years.