American Diabetes Month: Here’s a look at the factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease
A person’s chances of getting type 2 diabetes depend on a combination of risk factors such as one’s genes and lifestyle
The underlying cause and risk factors of diabetes vary by type. But, no matter what type of diabetes you have, health experts warn that it can lead to excess sugar in the blood, which can cause serious health problems.
Type 1 diabetes
This is thought to be caused by an immune reaction when the body attacks itself by mistake. In the US, Whites are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than Blacks and Hispanic/Latino Americans. While the risk factors for type 1 diabetes is not very clear, factors that may signal an increased risk include:
Family history: Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 1 diabetes. Some people have certain genes — traits passed on from parent to child — that make them more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, though many do not go on to have type 1 diabetes even if they have the genes
Age: You can get type 1 diabetes at any age, but it is more likely to develop when you are a child, teenager or young adult.
Environmental factors: Being exposed to a trigger in the environment, such as a virus, is also thought to play a part in developing type 1 diabetes. Diet and lifestyle habits do not cause type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes
A person’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes depend on a combination of risk factors such as one’s genes and lifestyle.
Prediabetes: It can put a person at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Age: Being 45 years or older.
Family history: Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
Being overweight or obese: The more fatty tissue people have, the more resistant their cells become to insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy. In a person with type 2 diabetes, cells do not respond normally to insulin, which is called insulin resistance.
Physical inactivity: People who are physically active less than three times a week could be at risk.
Gestational diabetes: The risk increases in women if they have ever had diabetes during pregnancy.
Polycystic ovary syndrome: For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome — a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, and obesity — increases the likelihood of getting diabetes.
Race or Ethnicity: African-American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian or Alaska Native face a higher risk. Some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: This may also raise the risk.
Other factors: Having high blood pressure, having a low level of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol are risk factors. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Similar to type 2 diabetes, people are at risk of developing prediabetes if they are overweight, are 45 years or older, have a family history of type 2 diabetes, have had diabetes during pregnancy, and are physically inactive. Being African-American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native elevates the risk.
Pregnant women can develop gestational diabetes and some women are at greater risk than are others. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born but increases the risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. The child is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen and is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
Age and weight: Pregnant women older than age 25 are at greater risk. Being overweight before pregnancy also increases the risk.
Family/personal history: Your risk increases if you have prediabetes, or if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has type 2 diabetes. A woman is also at greater risk if she had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy.
Large baby: Having given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds is a risk factor.
Race or Ethnicity: African-American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
What do the numbers say?
Analyzing risk factors, the National Diabetes Statistics Report-2020 report of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that among US adults aged 18 years or older with diagnosed diabetes, crude estimates for 2013-2016 reveal that 21.6% were tobacco users based on self-report or levels of serum cotinine, 15% reported current cigarette smoking, and 36.4% had quit smoking but had a history of smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.
Similarly, data indicate that among people with diabetes during the same period, 89% were overweight or had obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m2 (kg is a person’s weight in kilograms and m2 is their height in metres squared), or higher. “Specifically, 27.6% were overweight (BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2), 45.8% had obesity (BMI of 30.0 to 39.9 kg/m2), and 15.5% had extreme obesity (BMI of 40.0 kg/m2 or higher),” the findings state.
The researchers studied physical inactivity and found that 38% with diabetes were physically inactive, defined as getting less than 10 minutes a week of moderate or vigorous activity in each physical activity category of work, leisure time and transportation.
About 68.4% of diabetes patients also either had a systolic blood pressure of 140 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or higher, or diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or higher or were on prescription medication for their high blood pressure.
Among other findings, 43.5% had a non-HDL level of 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher. Also, known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, the authors found that 22.4% had a non-HDL level of 130 to 159 mg/dL, 11.2% had a non-HDL level of 160 to 189 mg/dL, and 9.9% had a non-HDL level of 190 mg/dL or higher.