Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors You Need to Know

Certain lifestyle and genetic factors increase type 2 diabetes risk. Where do you stand?

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There are many things in life you may not be able control (paying taxes and getting older, to name a couple). Developing diabetes, however, does not have to be one of them—even if you’re at a high risk of developing the disease.

The best way to decrease your chance of developing type 2 diabetes: Know your individual risk factors so you can work with your doctor, get regular screenings, and adjust your lifestyle to prevent diabetes.

Knowing your risks is especially important because type 2 diabetes symptoms can often be silent. “Up to one-third of patients don’t realize they have diabetes, because symptoms of mildly elevated blood sugar are not significant,” says Sonal Chaudhry, MD, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Your risk for developing type 2 diabetes depends on a combination of factors. “There are lot of possible causes of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is at the heart of the problem, so where insulin in the body doesn’t work very well. That could be genetic, that could be related to [being] overweight, and it can also be related to inflammation. Inflammation has been linked with fat changes in the body which then make insulin work very poorly,” says Minisha Sood, MD, an endocrinologist in New York City.

You are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are age 45 or older
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a low level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides
  • Have a history of gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
  • Are not physically active


How to Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Although you can’t change certain type 2 diabetes risk factors such as family history, age, or ethnicity, there are many you can control. You can adopt a diabetes-friendly diet, get enough exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. Adjusting your lifestyle not only lowers your risk of developing diabetes, but also other health conditions, like your risk of heart disease.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone over the age of 45 is screened for type 2 diabetes. “If that screening is normal, then they should be screened at least every three years for diabetes. Patients who have risk factors for diabetes should be tested earlier and more frequently to make sure that they haven’t developed type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Chaudhry.

“You should never feel helpless, there’s definitely many things you can do in order to control the disease or control your transitioning into diabetes if you do have a predisposition to it,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, an internist in New York City.