Understand Your Risk for Diabetes

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Diabetes contributes to more than 230,000 deaths in the United States per year. But many people with Type 2 diabetes aren’t aware they have it — and may already have developed various health complications associated with the disease.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Several risk factors increase your risk for developing prediabetes and, ultimately, Type 2 diabetes. Some of these characteristics are non-modifiable, or beyond your control, such as:

  • Family history: If you have a blood relative with diabetes, your risk for developing it is significantly increased. Map out your family history tree and take it to your doctor to find out what your family history may mean for you.
  • Race or ethnic background: If you’re of African-American, Asian-American, Latino/Hispanic-American, Native American or Pacific Islander descent, you have a greater likelihood of developing diabetes.
  • Age: The older you are, the higher your risk for diabetes. Generally, Type 2 diabetes occurs in middle-aged adults, most frequently after age 45. However, healthcare providers are diagnosing more and more children and adolescents with Type 2 diabetes.
  • History of gestational diabetes: If you developed diabetes during pregnancy, you are at increased risk.

Modifiable Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

You can — and should — do something about modifiable risk factors. By making healthy changes, you can reduce risk for diabetes or delay its development. The changes can also improve your overall quality of life.

  • Overweight/obesity: Being overweight puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Losing 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight can cut your risk of developing prediabetes in half, and your risk decreases even more as you lose more weight. Learn how to manage your weight.
  • Physical inactivity: Along with being overweight and obese, physical inactivity ranks among the top modifiable risk factors for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. For your overall cardiovascular health, seek to do:
    • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity;
    • Or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity;
    • Or a combination of the two with muscle-strengthening at least two days per week.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): In addition to causing damage to the cardiovascular system, untreated high blood pressure has been linked to the development of diabetes. Learn more about high blood pressure and how to control it.
  • Abnormal cholesterol (lipid) levels: Low HDL “good” cholesterol and/or high triglycerides can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A healthy eating plan, sufficient aerobic physical activity and a healthy weight can help improve abnormal lipid levels. Sometimes, medications are necessary.

By following our healthy living tips, you can take control of these modifiable risk factors. Taking proactive steps now can prevent or delay the development of diabetes, and improve your quality of life.

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Living with Type 2 diabetes?

Get monthly science-based diabetes and heart-healthy tips in your inbox. Know Diabetes by Heart raises awareness that living with Type 2 diabetes increases risk for heart disease and stroke – and that people should talk with their doctor at their next appointment about ways to reduce risk.