Your risk of diabetes is affected by many factors, both genetic and environmental. While some diabetes risk factors are beyond your control, some simple measures can reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes Risk Factors
Type 1 diabetes most often begins in childhood, and is a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin. Without the hormone insulin, glucose (sugar) is unable to move from your bloodstream to fuel your cells. Here are some factors that increase risk of diabetes type 1:
- Certain illnesses and infections: Some rare conditions can damage the pancreas, causing type 1 diabetes.
- Cold weather: Cold climates and seasons may increase risk of diabetes type 1.
- Early life diet: Introduction to solid foods at an early age, and not being breastfed, may increase risk of diabetes type 1.
- Family history and genetics: If you have a family member with diabetes, you are at increased risk. Diabetic screening is recommended for anyone who has a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with type 1 diabetes.
- Pancreatic disease or injury: These strains to the pancreas can damage its ability to produce insulin, increasing the risk of diabetes type 1.
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
Type 2 diabetes results when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, and/or the body becomes resistant to insulin function.
Scientists have discovered a very strong link between obesity and diabetes. Obesity and being overweight, in fact, has been shown to be the strongest diabetes risk factors for this type. Other type 2 diabetes risk factors include:
- Acanthosis nigricans (dark, thickened skin patches)
- Age greater than 45
- Body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher
- Ethnicity (African Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders)
- Family history of diabetes
- Gestational diabetes history
- High blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- Insulin resistance
- Lack of exercise
- Low HDL cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Western lifestyle (high-fat, low-fiber diet coupled with little or no exercise).
Managing Your Risk of Diabetes
Understanding your risk of diabetes gives you a certain amount of control over your health, and the health of your children. While you cannot change genetics or family history, you can take steps to live a healthier lifestyle that postpones the onset of diabetes, or prevents it entirely. Here are some ways to reduce your diabetes risk factors:
- Eat a healthy diet: You and your family can enjoy meals rich in fiber, fresh produce and whole grains, while low in saturated fats, junk foods and overly processed foods.
- Exercise: Moderate exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can be a fun way to reduce the risk of diabetes, including lowering high blood pressure. You and your family can take walks, ride your bikes, dance, swim or play sports.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Reaching a goal weight can be hard, but take heart if you are overweight: Even small weight reductions can significantly reduce diabetes risk, since the link between obesity and diabetes is so strong.
- Manage blood pressure: Get your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have high blood pressure, keep it under control with your doctor’s help.
- Manage triglycerides and cholesterol: Get your levels checked and under control.
A.D.A.M. (n.d.). Type 2 diabetes â€“ Risk factors. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002072.htm.
American Diabetes Association. (2010). Genetics of diabetes. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/genetics-of-diabetes.html.