Diabetes Risk Factors

Are you at risk for diabetes?

Of the 34 million adult Americans with diabetes, over 7 million don’t know they have diabetes. Are you wondering about your risk for diabetes? There are risk factors that may predispose you to develop diabetes. Some risk factors you can control and some you cannot. However, it’s important to note that having risk factors does not mean you will automatically get diabetes.

If you have any of the risk factors for diabetes, you should consult with your doctor. Your doctor will likely run some screening tests and possibly run yearly screenings to catch diabetes early on and avoid complications from diabetes.

Making lifestyle changes to diet, sleep, exercise, and stress can also significantly reduce your risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors of Type 1 Diabetes and LADA

Type 1 diabetes and LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) are autoimmune diseases. There is currently no known way to prevent developing type 1 diabetes or LADA. In these types of diabetes, your body’s immune system goes awry and begins to attack the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. Without insulin, your body can’t regulate blood sugar. As a result, blood sugar levels rise, and people with type 1 diabetes and LADA require injected insulin for the rest of their lives.

A few recent research trials have been conducted that aimed to prevent, interrupt, or slow down the development of these forms of diabetes. Unfortunately, so far, results have been mixed and largely inconclusive.

The risk factors for type 1 diabetes and LADA are:

  1. Family History – If your parents or siblings have type 1 diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes. If an immediate family member (parent or sibling) has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, there is a 1 in 20 chance of other family members developing the disease.
  2. Disease of the Pancreas – Because the pancreas is responsible for releasing insulin into your body, any damage caused to the pancreas places you at higher risk.
  3. Infection or Illness – Certain types of infections and illnesses can damage your pancreas, causing type 1 diabetes. Some, but not all, examples might be a virus, polyglandular autoimmune syndrome, thyroid disease, an immune system disorder, and a poorly working adrenal gland.
  4. Race – Type 1 diabetes is more common in white people than in people of other races.
  5. Environment – People living in colder climates are more likely to have type 1 diabetes.
  6. Early Diet – A person is less likely to develop type 1 diabetes if they were breastfed. A person is also less likely to develop type 1 diabetes if they ate their first solid foods at a later age.

Risk Factors of Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are metabolic diseases. These types of diabetes occur due to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone responsible for unlocking your cells to allow sugar to enter to be used for energy. When you become insulin resistant, your cells no longer unlock, and as a result, blood sugar rises. Unlike type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes often produce more insulin than normal. This is because as your body’s cells become resistant to insulin’s effects, your body starts making more and more insulin to try to move sugar out of your blood and into your cells. 

Many researchers believe that you may prevent developing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.

The risk factors for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are:

  1. Diagnosed with Prediabetes – If nothing is done, you will most likely develop type 2 diabetes. Use our guide for reversing prediabetes to eliminate your prediabetes naturally.
  2. Obesity or Being OverweightBeing overweight has a strong correlation to type 2 diabetes. At all ages, the risk of type 2 diabetes increases as weight increases. You are 20 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when your BMI is greater than 35. Being overweight, however, does not cause diabetes. Insulin causes weight gain, and often when people are insulin resistant, their bodies produce higher than normal amounts of insulin to combat insulin resistance. One side effect of excess insulin is weight gain. If insulin resistance progresses, your body continues to make more and more insulin, which can cause additional weight gain. A diet with high amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates also contributes to weight gain and insulin resistance.
  3. Insulin Resistance – Type 2 diabetes starts with your cells becoming resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is usually a lengthy process, but you may be experiencing several symptoms that might suggest you are insulin resistant. Learn more about the symptoms of diabetes. You may be able to diagnose your illness while still in the prediabetes phase and be able to eliminate diabetes before it’s too late. Once diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you will have the disease for the rest of your life.
  4. Race – If you are a Hispanic/Latino American, African-American, Native American, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, or Alaska Native, you have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  5. Gestational Diabetes – Gestational diabetes may develop while you are pregnant. According to CDC (Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention), 2-10% of pregnancies in the US are affected by gestational diabetes. It is currently unclear how much of a risk gestational diabetes poses for type 2 diabetes, as it varies dramatically.
  6. Sedentary Lifestyle – Exercising less than three times a week causes your body to work harder to absorb sugar and make insulin. When you’re not active, it causes stress on the cells that produce insulin.
  7. Family History – While scientists don’t fully understand the extent, there is a strong genetic component to type 2 diabetes. If you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing the disease.
  8. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  9. Age – The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes after 45 years of age increases dramatically. Total Diabetes Wellness recommends an annual diabetes screening test for anyone over the age of 45.

Risk Factors of Gestational Diabetes

Similar to type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, gestational diabetes is a metabolic disorder. Most often, gestational diabetes goes away after you give birth. While it’s unclear if gestational diabetes can be prevented, you can reduce your risk through lifestyle changes to diet, sleep, exercise, and stress.

The risk factors for gestational diabetes are:

  1. Excessive Weight Gain – If you are gaining weight beyond what is recommended by your doctor, you may be at higher risk of gestational diabetes. Ask your doctor if you feel this may be a concern for you.
  2. Glucose Intolerance – Having gestational diabetes in any previous pregnancy increases your risk of gestational diabetes in future pregnancies.
  3. Family History – There is a genetic component to gestational diabetes. Women with parents or siblings with diabetes of any type, not just gestational diabetes, are at higher risk.
  4. Age – Over 35 and pregnant, you are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  5. RaceBlack, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian American women have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  6. Polycystic ovary syndrome – Your risk for both type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes due to the increased risk of glucose intolerance.

Tips for Reducing Diabetes Risk Factors

There currently is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes or LADA. However, while you can’t prevent either of these forms of diabetes, you may find that by following the below suggestions, you see fewer spikes and falls in your blood sugar, making your diabetes easier to manage overall.

The list below of lifestyle changes can help prevent developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. If you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes, making these changes early on can avoid developing type 2 diabetes.

  1. Diet – Changing your diet is one of the quickest ways to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance. As your cells become more sensitive to insulin, your body will start to produce a normal amount of insulin again, and your blood sugar will be easier to control. We suggest following a low-carb, high-fat diet for the best results. Backed by science, following this diet will leave you feeling full and satisfied while nourishing and healthily fueling your body. Learn more about your diet’s role in diabetes.
  2. Sleep – Research shows that chronic lack of sleep contributes to the risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep also has adverse effects on people with type 1 diabetes. Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you have conditions that affect your sleep, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, work with your doctor to treat these conditions. Learn more about how sleep affects diabetes and how to get your best night’s sleep.
  3. Exercise – Exercise can improve your insulin sensitivity for up to 24 hours. Focusing on movement throughout the day also helps provide more control over blood sugar levels. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, just that you are doing something. Exercise offers a ton of health benefits, including better sleep, increased life expectancy, lowering cholesterol, losing weight, lowering the risk of heart disease, and reducing the chance of injury. Learn about starting an exercise program, even if you haven’t exercised before.
  4. Stress – Stress raises hormones that directly affect blood sugar levels. It is important to recognize sources of stress in your life and work towards eliminating and managing stress. Stress can come from many sources: mental, physical, emotional, family, and work comprise the significant stressors for most people. Learn about how stress affects blood sugar and what you can do to reduce stress in your life.