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
- High alcohol intake
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 giving birth to baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- Prediabetes—blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to meet the criteria for diabetes
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Obesity or being overweight
- 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
The risk of type 2 diabetes rises quickly after 45 years of age and again after 65. 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
- Native American
- Asian American
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.
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Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardNicole S. Meregian, PA Last Updated: 1/26/2021