5 Key Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Get Screened Today

Mature man with eyes closed reclining on sofa
Raphye Alexius/Image Source/Getty Images

On March 25th, The American Diabetes Association celebrates Diabetes Alert Day in efforts to increase diabetes awareness. According to the ADA, nearly 7 million Americans have diabetes and don't know it. Certain factors can increase your risk for diabetes. It's important to know these risk factors so that you can prevent, detect and treat diabetes. 

Family History: Type 2 diabetes has a stronger family history lineage than Type 1 diabetes.  The genetics of Type 2 diabetes is complicated because those people with a family history of Type 2 diabetes may also have shared environmental risk factors such as obesity and sedentary lifestyle. In general, the risk of diabetes for a sibling of a patient with type 2 diabetes is about the same as that of the general population. However, if both parents have type 2 diabetes the risk increases to nearly a 50% chance of developing diabetes. It sounds scary, but even if you have a strong family history it doesn't mean you will absolutely get diabetes. The good news is that even you can prevent or delay diabetes by eating a well-balanced diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight

Race or Ethnicity: Your race and ethnicity can increase your risk of developing diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control 2011 Fact Sheet, compared to non-Hispanic white adults, the risk of diagnosed diabetes is 18% higher among Asian Americans, 66% higher among Hispanics, and 77% higher among non-Hispanic blacks. *This information was taken from a 2007-2009 survey. 

Age: If you are above the age of 45, you are at increased risk of developing diabetes. While age is something we cannot control, we do have the ability to make certain lifestyle choices that can help us to age healthfully. Start by getting informed. If you are above the age of 45 and have a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or obesity, ask your doctor to check your HgbA1c. The HgbA1c is a diagnostic tool used to measure the amount of sugar in your blood during a three month period. It helps us to understand your risk for diabetes and how your body is utilizing glucose. 

Weight: Excess weight, especially in the abdominal area can increase your risk of developing diabetes. Abdominal adiposity has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. Fat cells can become resistant to insulin, the hormone that is responsible for bringing sugar from the blood to the cells to use for energy. Excess fat can inhibit insulin from doing its job, hence causing blood sugars to remain circulating in the blood as opposed to being used for energy. Losing just 7% of your body weight can help to decrease your risk. 

Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of developing diabetes by contributing to excess weight. Exercise can help to improve blood sugars by increasing insulin utilization. It can also help to improve good cholesterol, reduce weight, increase energy levels and elevate mood. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intense exercise each week. Be sure to get cleared by your physician before starting any new exercise regimen. If you are someone who is new to exercise start slow and increase your duration and intensity incrementally. Aim to start with just 10 minutes daily - all activity counts. 

What Should You Do Now?

Get Screened: It's a good idea to have a check-up and routine blood work annually. Your physician can check your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Take a Risk Test: The American Diabetes Association put out a simple survey that will take just sixty seconds to help you assess your risk level. Go here for more information: 

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.