Have you recently received a type 2 diabetes diagnosis but didn't even know you were at risk of developing diabetes in the first place? If so, your experience is similar to that of millions of others worldwide.
Even as the prevalence of type 2 diabetes continues to rise year after year, most people do not know the primary risk factors that can lead to the development of this lifelong disease. While there are genetic and age-related risk factors that a person cannot control, the lifestyle and dietary choices we make also play a significant role in increasing our risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
So, what are some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes? Looking to provide education on this important topic, we have created this helpful guide for you to read. Sharing a list of the most common diabetes type 2 risk factors and what preventative measures you can take to reduce them, this is a must-read article for anyone interested in learning more about this increasingly common disease.
With this in mind, here is everything you need to know about the most common risk factors of type 2 diabetes.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Before we jump into the most common risk factors of type 2 diabetes, we first need to understand the disease and how it affects a person's overall health.
As a health condition with multiple different forms, diabetes can present in various ways. Always involving the hormone insulin (which is responsible for regulating our blood sugar levels after eating), the specific mechanisms of the disease determine which subtype of diabetes someone is diagnosed with.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by a lack of sensitivity to insulin over time. In a person without diabetes, insulin is released from the pancreas after a meal to facilitate the storage of excess glucose for later use. A person with developing type 2 diabetes still produces the needed amount of insulin to balance their blood sugars, but their cells are less receptive and sensitive — preventing the hormone from doing its job as well as it should. When this occurs, the body is less able to control its blood glucose levels, and over time, the person develops worse and worse symptoms until they are officially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
What are the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes?
Now that we have a better understanding of what type 2 diabetes is, we can finally explore what puts a person at a greater risk of developing the disease. As a progressive disease that is most commonly diagnosed later in life, it is prevalent for people to live with these risk factors for years before developing any symptoms, indicating that they may have type 2 diabetes. This may be one of the reasons why so many people feel like their diagnosis came out of nowhere, not knowing that they have been at risk for many years before becoming ill.
Some of the most common risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Having an elevated body mass index (BMI)
Obesity and excess adipose (fat) tissue is one of the most common risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Fat cells are less sensitive to insulin than muscle cells, so those with larger amounts of adipose tissue are more likely to have a decreased sensitivity to the hormone. Additionally, studies have shown that people who naturally collect fat tissue around their abdomen are at an increased risk of developing this disease compared to those who have fat more evenly spread around their body.
- Regularly smoking
Did you know that nicotine plays a role in increasing a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes? As a primary active ingredient in cigarettes, nicotine can decrease sensitivity to insulin. The more a person smokes, the more at risk they become, which is why it is also recommended that smokers newly diagnosed should stop as soon as possible.
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
Physical activity is a great way to maintain your body weight while using excess glucose for energy. If a person is not active, they are more likely to gain weight and experience worse health outcomes, including the development of type 2 diabetes.
- Age and gender
As risk factors that cannot be controlled, a person's age and gender indeed play a role in their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Notably, men are at a greater risk of developing diabetes than women, with the number of risk factors increasing when a person of either gender is 40 years old or older.
- Having other medical comorbidities
Just like any other health condition, living with other medical comorbidities increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some of the most common diseases that increase your risk of developing diabetes are heart disease, chronic lung disease, and kidney failure.
How to prevent type 2 diabetes?
So now that we have learned some of the most common risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, you might find yourself wondering, "How to prevent type 2 diabetes in the first place?"
With many risk factors of the disease able to be controlled or completely eliminated through changes to a person's lifestyle and diet, it is possible to significantly reduce your risk of developing the disease. Additionally, if you have already been diagnosed with the condition, minimizing or eliminating your symptoms is possible by making the same lifestyle adjustments.
Examples of what you can do to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Eating a balanced and nutritious diet low in processed sugar
- Participating in daily low-impact exercise, like walking, yoga, or swimming
- Cutting back or stopping smoking
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Taking prescribed medications to control any medical comorbidities
- Getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night
- Reducing the amount of chronic stress you experience on a daily basis
- Working with your primary care provider to create a personalized diabetes treatment plan
Depending on your lifestyle habits and living environment, some changes may be easier than others. But, it is important to know that even minor adjustments can profoundly impact your overall health and well-being.
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