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Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
It is possible to develop type 2 diabetes with or without the risk factors listed below. But, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Sedentary Lifestyle and Poor Dietary Patterns
Type 2 diabetes is very common in the US. A major risk factor is the typical American or Westernized lifestyle, which is characterized by:
- Lack of physical activity
- Consumption of high-calorie, high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods and beverages, such as sugar-sweetened sodas and juices
- High intake of processed meats
Having sleep problems may put you at an increased risk for diabetes. Sleep problems include having difficulty falling asleep, having difficulty staying asleep, sleeping too long (over 9 hours), or not sleeping enough (less than 5 hours).
Excess Weight and Obesity
Carrying excess weight, especially in the upper body and abdomen, increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. This is especially true for overweight young adults, people who have been overweight for a long time. But is it also true for middle-aged adults who gain weight.
There has been a marked increase in type 2 diabetes among overweight children. Until recently, this disease was rarely found in people under the age of 40. The development of type 2 diabetes is increasingly seen in overweight children.
Insulin is a hormone made in the body. It is needed to move glucose from the blood to body tissue. The tissues of overweight or obese people can become less sensitive to insulin. This is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can lead to diabetes and contribute significantly to many of its complications.
Certain conditions that can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Lipid disorders—low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) "good" cholesterol, high triglycerides levels
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gestational diabetes—or having had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth
- Prediabetes—blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to meet the criteria for diabetes
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome or other condition associated with insulin resistance
- Drug-induced diabetes from taking certain medications
- Endocrine disorders—Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, or acute pancreatitis
- Genetic disorders—Down syndrome, porphyria, hemochromatosis, Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome
If you are aged 45 or older, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends screening. Regardless of age, though, if you are overweight and have other risk factors, then you should be screened for diabetes. Overweight children who are aged 10 or older should be screened, as well.
In the United States, people of the following ethnic groups are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes:
- African American
- Hispanic American
- Pima Indian
- Native American
- Asian American
- Pacific Islander
Many people in these groups have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes when they do not live in a Westernized culture.
Having family members with type 2 diabetes increases your risk of developing the condition.
American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus Diabetes Care. 2010;33(Suppl 1):S62-S69.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113993/Diabetes-mellitus-type-2-in-adults. Updated August 29, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Statistics about diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics. Updated April 1, 2016. Accessed August 23, 2016.
12/14/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T270053/Risk-factors-for-diabetes-mellitus-type-2: Shen HN, Yang CC, Chang YH, Lu CL, Li CY. Risk of diabetes mellitus after first-attack acute pancreatitis: a national population-based study. Am J Gastroenterol. 2015;110(12):1698-1706.
10/1/2018 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T270053/Risk-factors-for-diabetes-mellitus-type-2: Mantovani A, Byrne CD, Bonora E, Targher G. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and risk of incident type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(2):372-382.
- Reviewer: Kim Carmichael, MD
- Review Date: 09/2016
- Update Date: 10/01/2018