Being more than 45 years of age is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. People of this age and older should take active steps to prevent the condition, including regular, light-to-moderate exercise and a controlled diet.
Individual diagnoses vary too much for there to be an exact age of onset for type 2 diabetes. There is evidence, however, that the likelihood of developing the condition increases drastically after 45 years of age.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommend annual diabetes screening tests after people reach 45 years of age.
However, the development of the condition depends on too many other factors to accurately predict on an individual basis.
A broad mix of health and lifestyle factors can influence the progression of the condition. Many people have diabetes for years without being aware they have the condition. This causes a wide variation between the age of onset and age of diagnosis.
Some estimates claim that one in four people with diabetes do not know they have it. Also, many national surveys and studies do not distinguish between rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults between 45 and 64 years of age receive the majority of new diabetes diagnoses in the U.S.
While it might not be possible to define a set age for the onset of type 2 diabetes, a person’s age greatly increases the risk of developing the condition.
The 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report estimates that 12.2 percent of U.S. adults 18 years old and above had diabetes in 2015.
Elsewhere, a 2016 study found that the rates of type 2 diabetes were up to seven times higher in Chinese adults from 55 to 74 years old than they were in 20- to 34-year-olds.
Similarly, the ADA report that rates of diabetes remain high in the elderly population, impacting around 25.2 percent of those over 65 years old.
Type 2 diabetes is also becoming increasingly prevalent in children and adolescents worldwide.
Common factors that can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:
- being more than 45 years old
- being overweight
- having excess abdominal or belly fat
- poor diet, especially one high in fats and excess or refined sugars
- a sedentary lifestyle
- having family members with diabetes
- having diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
- giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- high levels of fats called triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- history of heart disease or stroke
- liver or kidney disease
- polycystic ovary syndrome
These factors impact blood glucose either directly or indirectly over time.
Differences between the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and the age of diagnosis may also depend on sex and race or ethnic background.
The CDC note that from 1997 to 2011, doctors diagnosed American men roughly 2 years earlier than women, and African Americans and Hispanics around 6 years earlier than white people.
The ADA also note that diabetes impacts people of some races or ethnic backgrounds far more than others.
Lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity levels, may be among the reasons for higher prevalence rates, but the research is still inconclusive.
Current rates of people in the U.S. who have a diagnosis of diabetes, according to race or ethnic background, are as follows:
- 7.4 percent of non-Hispanic white people
- 8.0 percent of Asian Americans
- 12.1 percent of Hispanics
- 12.7 percent of non-Hispanic black people
- 15.1 percent of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes, such as increased thirst, hunger, and fatigue, do not often present until complications develop. Taking steps to prevent diabetes is vital, as the time until a person becomes aware of it may advance the condition.
Ways to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:
- doing light-to-moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, including daily activity
- maintaining a healthful, balanced diet
- cutting down on simple sugars, excess sugars, and fats in food
- monitoring carbohydrate intake
- eating smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large meals
- losing 5 to 7 percent of your total body weight
- monitoring or treating blood glucose levels
- cutting stress to reduce levels of the hormone cortisol, which can increase blood glucose levels
- staying hydrated
- increasing fiber intake
- a regular sleep schedule to reduce the release of stress hormones
However, people should start undergoing tests for diabetes every year once they reach 45 years of age. If these tests show type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, they can start making adjustments sooner.
Those at greater risk of diabetes should make sure dietary choices help maintain healthy blood sugars. However, with effective portion control and careful meal planning, people with type 2 diabetes can still eat their favorite foods.
Can a person have diabetes from birth?
Babies can develop type 1 diabetes. Some signs of diabetes in babies or infants include fatigue, weight loss despite hunger and a good appetite, yeast infections, and fruity smelling breath.
Carers may also notice irritability without an apparent cause.Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.