Understanding Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

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Diabetes is a condition that causes dangerously high blood sugar levels. The most common form is Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes results when the body does not make enough insulin or develops insulin resistance. Many people with Type 2 diabetes are not aware they have the disease.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes that you can’t change include:

  • Family history A blood relative with diabetes significantly increases your risk.
  • Race or ethnic background African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders have a greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • Age Adults 45 and older are at increased risk of developing the disease.
  • History of gestational diabetes Diabetes during pregnancy also increases the risk of future diabetes.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes that you can change include:

  • Being overweight/obese Losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can cut your risk of developing diabetes in half. Risk of the disease continues to decrease with additional weight loss.
  • Physical inactivity Achieving 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week can improve how well your body uses insulin and help you avoid type 2 diabetes.
  • Unhealthy food choices Diets low in fiber and high in fats have been linked to increased risk of diabetes. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may help to prevent diabetes.

Controlling the risk factors that you can change can help prevent Type 2 diabetes and improve your quality of life.

Michael Gardner, MD, endocrinologist at MU Health Care