More than 400 million people were living with diabetes as of 2015, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
There are three major types of the diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Of the three, Type 2 is the most common.
The Centers for Disease Control and Backention estimates that 90 percent of people around the world diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2.
In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the cells are not able to use the insulin as well as they should. This is what experts call “insulin resistance”.
Initially, the pancreas makes more insulin to try to move glucose into the cells. But eventually, it can’t keep up and the sugar builds up in the bloodstream, leading to a high blood sugar level.
Many people with Type 2 diabetes are not even aware they have the disease, and this can contribute to various health complications associated with it. This makes it even more important to know the risk factors.
There are both non-modifiable as well as modifiable risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. While you cannot do much about the non-modifiable risk factors, there are many that you can control to help prevent yourself from developing this disease.
Here are 10 risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
1. Family History
Your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes is high if one of your parents or a sibling has it.
According to the American Diabetes Association, your risk is:
- 1 in 7 if one of your parents was diagnosed with diabetes before age 50.
- 1 in 13 if one of your parents was diagnosed with diabetes after age 50.
- 1 in 2 if both your parents have diabetes.
When combined with diabetes triggers like your diet and exposure to certain viruses, your risk for developing diabetes increases. Though you cannot do much about the genetic predisposition, you can certainly strive to avoid the triggers.
2. Race or Ethnic Background
Apart from family history, people belonging to certain races or ethnicities are more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes. Hispanics, African-Americans, Hawaiians, Native Americans and Asians are at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
A 2016 study published in Diabetes Care reports that the risk of diabetes is significantly higher among Asians, Hispanics and blacks than among whites, before and after taking into account differences in body mass index.
So, if you are of African-American, Asian, Latino/Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Islander descent, it’s time to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.
Your risk of Type 2 diabetes increases as you get older. Most often, it occurs in middle-aged adults, say after age 45. This can be due to the fact that people tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight with increasing age.
However, this type of diabetes is occurring in children, adolescents and younger adults more and more nowadays, mainly due to unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Health experts recommend all adults, beginning at age 40, have their blood sugar level checked every few months. Early diagnosis is key to preventing or managing Type 2 diabetes.
4. History of Gestational Diabetes
If you developed diabetes during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes, then you are at an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes.
A 2013 study published in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that women diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy face a significantly higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future.
Also, giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
This is a modifiable risk factor, and you can decrease your risk by leading an active lifestyle and maintaining a healthy body weight.
5. Overweight or Obesity
Being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Being overweight stresses the inner part of individual cells called endoplasmic reticulum (ER). When the ER has more nutrients to process than it can handle, it causes the cells to dampen down the insulin receptors on the cell surface. This leads to persistently high concentrations of glucose in the blood.
Moreover, if your body stores fat primarily in your abdomen, your risk of Type 2 diabetes is greater than if your body stores fat elsewhere, such as your hips and thighs.
One good thing about this risk factor is that by losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, you can cut your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
6. Physical Inactivity
Physical inactivity is another top modifiable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. The less active you are, the greater your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, physical activity helps weight loss, uses up glucose as energy and makes the cells more sensitive to insulin.
A 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that ceasing regular physical activity impairs glycemic control (control of blood sugar levels), suggesting that inactivity may play a key role in the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Aim to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or a combination of the two with muscle-strengthening at least two days per week.
7. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure can cause significant damage to the cardiovascular system, and untreated high blood pressure can even lead to the development of diabetes.
Also, women who have gestational diabetes are more likely to have hypertension. And gestational diabetes is linked to development of Type 2 diabetes in the coming years. However, women who manage their blood sugar levels during pregnancy are less likely to experience hypertension or Type 2 diabetes.
A 2013 survey by the American Diabetes Association reports that fewer than half of people at risk for heart disease or Type 2 diabetes reported discussing biomarkers like high blood pressure with their doctors.
The combination of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes is really bad, as it significantly raises your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
If you blood pressure is running high, take it seriously and follow your doctor’s advice to keep it in check.
8. Abnormal Cholesterol (Lipid) Levels
A low level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol) and high triglycerides can increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.
In a 2016 study published in JAMA Cardiology, researchers found that people who took statins to lower their levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) were more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes.
However, people with naturally lower LDL levels were less likely to develop heart disease but were also slightly more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes. Researchers concluded that it’s likely that one’s LDL level is associated with diabetes risk, rather than an effect of the statins.
To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, a healthy eating plan, consistent aerobic physical activity and a healthy weight can help a lot.
Prediabetes, a milder form of the condition, is an obvious risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is defined as blood glucose levels above normal but below diabetes thresholds.
A 2012 study published in Lancet reports that prediabetes based on glycemic parameters above normal but below diabetes thresholds is a high risk state for diabetes. The study also says that for prediabetic individuals, lifestyle modification is the cornerstone of diabetes prevention with evidence of a 40 to 70 percent relative risk reduction.
Prediabetes can be easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. If you have it, get more active and lose any extra weight. Also, opt for a healthy diet and follow the suggestions given by your doctor.
10. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that causes irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity is another risk factor for diabetes.
A 2004 study published in Minerva Ginecologica reports that the risk of glucose intolerance among PCOS subjects seems to be approximately 5- to 10-fold higher than normal and appears not limited to a single ethnic group. Moreover, other risk factors like obesity, a family history of Type 2 diabetes and hyperandrogenism may contribute to increasing the diabetes risk in women with PCOS.
A 2012 study published in Diabetes also confirms that the risk of Type 2 diabetes is markedly elevated in women with PCOS in middle-age, and therefore reinforces the need for routine screening of PCOS patients for diabetes over time.
Tips to Backent Type 2 Diabetes
- Eat healthy by choosing foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber.
- Include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet.
- Replace full-fat dairy products with low-fat versions.
- Choose healthy unsaturated fats, limit saturated fats, and limit or avoid trans fats.
- When eating, always watch your food portions and try to eat small meals 4 or 5 times a day.
- Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.
- If you’re overweight, take the necessary steps to lose the extra pounds.
- Replace juice and soda with water infused with fresh fruit.
- Quit smoking and excess drinking.
- Watch your blood pressure level and take steps to keep in under control.
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- See your doctor for regular checkups. It is highly recommended to regularly check your blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.