The likelihood of a person developing type 2 diabetes is dependent on a variety of risk factors, with some being easier to control than others.
A person can change, or control, some risk factors, such as diet and the amount of exercise they do. However, other risk factors, such as age or a family history of diabetes, are out of their control.
Keep reading to learn more about type 2 diabetes risk factors, including what people may be able to do to minimize the risk of developing the condition.
Controlling the following risk factors is especially important if a person has a family history of diabetes.
Overweight and obesity
When a person is living with obesity and has overweight, excess levels of adipose tissue, or body fat, release inflammatory proteins, hormones, and other molecules that can trigger insulin resistance.
When this happens, glucose stays in the blood for longer, and blood sugar levels rise. To reduce blood sugar levels, the pancreas produces more insulin to overcome the weak response of the cells.
If a person cannot reverse this process with a change in lifestyle or medication, they will likely develop type 2 diabetes.
Nicotine can increase blood sugar levels, and people who smoke often need to take more insulin than usual to keep their blood sugar levels within a healthy range.
If someone with type 2 diabetes feels they are ready to quit smoking, they should seek guidance from a doctor first. During a transition to a smoke-free lifestyle, blood sugar levels may drop more than normal, but they will eventually settle down.
A lack of physical activity
In combination with a balanced diet, exercise is one of the first symptom management strategies doctors recommend for people who live with prediabetes or have recently received a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Mental health problems
People with diabetes may also live with
When someone feels anxious or stressed, they may eat more processed foods and work out less, which could cause blood sugar levels to rise.
Stress hormones themselves can also make blood sugar levels increase or decrease unpredictably.
Some risk factors are beyond a person’s control. Examples include sharing similar genes with family members who have diabetes.
Family history of diabetes
When a person’s parents or siblings have type 2 diabetes, the person is
If an individual has prediabetes, their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for them to receive a diabetes diagnosis.
Using family history as a diagnostic tool means doctors can screen people for diabetes before their symptoms show or worsen, which results in better health outcomes.
When people get older, their bodies are not able to metabolize carbohydrates as effectively, which can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels.
Moreover, muscle, liver, and fat cells also lose sensitivity to insulin, which increases blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
If an older adult is living with obesity, they will likely experience more insulin resistance than someone without the condition. This emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and a healthy amount of physical activity well into older age.
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Moreover, due to a lack of drug testing in these populations, they may also receive less effective treatments than white people.
While the ADA recommends greater testing in these communities, it is important to note that historically, medical researchers abused their positions and conducted unethical experiments within these communities, which has resulted in a lack of participation in clinical trials.
To prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, a person should:
- eat a
healthy diet, low in refined carbohydrates, salt, and sugar
- complete at least
150 minutesof physical activity per week
- stop smoking, if applicable
avoid drinking alcoholor limit its consumption, if applicable
The risk factors for type 2 diabetes that a person can control include smoking and obesity.
However, some risk factors, such as age, are uncontrollable. With age, a person’s body gets less and less efficient at regulating blood sugar levels, which increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
A person has a greater risk of developing the condition if it runs in their family. However, if they follow a balanced diet, keep physically active, and do not smoke, they are likely to keep their blood sugar levels within a healthy range.