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
- High-calorie, high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet
- Diet that includes a lot of meat, especially processed meat (eg, processed luncheon meat, hot dogs, sausages)
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 (eg, over nine hours), or not sleeping enough (eg, less than five 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 increases 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 problems (eg, low HDL "good" cholesterol, high triglycerides levels)
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or having had a baby weighing nine pounds or more at birth
- Prediabetes (when blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to meet the criteria for diabetes)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome or other condition associated with insulin resistance
- Drug-induced diabetes from taking certain medicines (eg, pentamidine, glucocorticoids, thazides)
- Endocrine disorders (eg, Cushing’s syndrome , hyperthyroidism )
- Genetic disorders (eg, 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 (eg, family history of diabetes, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure), then you should be screened for diabetes. Overweight children who are aged 10 or older should be screened, as well.
In the US, 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.
- Reviewer: Kim Carmichael, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013 -
- Update Date: 09/30/2013 -