The variations between individual diagnoses are too great 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 the age of 45.
Average age at onset
Many people with diabetes do not know they have it, making regular screening tests important for those at risk.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommend annual diabetes screening tests after the age of 45. But the age at which someone develops the condition depends on too many differing factors to accurately predict.
A wide mix of individual health and lifestyle factors can influence the progression of the condition. Many people have diabetes for years before being diagnosed, causing a large variation between the age of onset and age of diagnosis.
Meanwhile, some estimates claim that one in four people with diabetes do not know they have it, which further complicates estimates. Also, many national surveys and studies do not distinguish between rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in adults.
According to the CDC, the majority of new diabetes diagnoses in the U.S. in 2015 were among adults aged between 45 and 64.
While there might not be a set age for onset for type 2 diabetes, age greatly increases the chances of developing the condition.
In 2015, an estimated 12.2 percent of Americans over 18 years of age had diabetes.
A 2016 study found that the rates of type 2 diabetes were up to seven times higher in Chinese adults, aged 55-74, than they were in those aged 20-34 years.
The ADA report that rates of diabetes remain high in the elderly population, impacting some 25 percent of those aged 65-plus.
Once considered an adult-only condition, type 2 diabetes is becoming an increasing problem in children and adolescents worldwide. An estimated 12 out of every 100,000 American youths under the age of 20 are diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, with diagnosis occurring at an average age of 14.
Having excess fat around the abdomen increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Anything that impacts blood sugars increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
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 those high in excess or refined sugars and fats
- having family members with diabetes
- having diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
- giving birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds
- high cholesterol (high triglycerides and low levels of HDL)
- high blood pressure
- history of heart disease and, or stroke
- liver and, or kidney disease
- polycystic ovary syndrome
Sex, race, or ethnic background
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, American men were diagnosed roughly 2 years earlier than women, and that African-Americans and Hispanics were diagnosed around 6 years earlier than Caucasians.
According to the ADA, diabetes impacts people of some races or ethnic backgrounds far more than others.
Lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity levels, may be to blame for higher prevalence rates but the research is still inconclusive.
Current rates of people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with diabetes according to race or ethnic background:
- 7.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites
- 9 percent of Asian Americans (4.4 percent of Chinese, 8.8 percent of other Asian Americans, 11.3 percent of Filipinos, 13 percent of Asian Indians)
- 12.8 percent of Hispanics (8.5 percent of Central and South Americans, 9.3 percent of Cubans, 13.9 percent of Mexican Americans, 14.8 percent for Puerto Ricans)
- 13.2 percent of non-Hispanic blacks
- 15.9 percent of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
American children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes tend to be obese and have a family history of diabetes. Furthermore, they are either of African American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or American Indian descent.
Reducing the risk
Active commuting, such as walking or cycling to work, is one way to be physically active every day.
Often those with type 2 diabetes do not know they have the condition until physical symptoms occur, such as increased thirst, hunger, and fatigue. That means most of what is known about the early progression of the condition is based on information gained from tracking people with prediabetes, the condition that precedes type 2 diabetes.
According to the CDC, at least 86 million Americans have prediabetes. Roughly 90 percent of people with prediabetes do not know they have it.
Without treatment, 15 to 30 percent of those with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years of diagnosis. But for people with prediabetes, making diet and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.
Ways to reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes include:
- doing moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week
- being physically active to some extent, daily
- maintaining a healthful, balanced diet
- cutting down on simple sugars in food and excess sugars and fats
- monitoring carbohydrate intake
- eating smaller meals more often throughout the day
- losing 5 to 7 percent of total body weight
- monitoring or treating blood glucose levels
- telling family and friends about your plans for further motivation
- removing stress to help reduce the stress hormone cortisol
- staying hydrated
- increasing fiber intake
- good sleep schedule to reduce stress hormone release
As the body ages, nutrition requirements change slightly, and the risk of injury increases. The National Institute on Aging recommend that meal and exercise plans should be altered after the age of 50.
Those at greater risk of diabetes should make sure dietary choices help maintain healthy blood sugars, but that does not mean cutting out carbohydrates altogether. Plenty of sample menus exist online to show that eating right does not have to mean compromising taste.