Risk Factors for Developing Type 2 Diabetes


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Approximately 85-90% of the diabetic population have type 2 diabetes. Until recently, type 2 diabetes was predominantly a condition of the over 45’s, however the current trend of rising obesity in children is changing this. We are beginning to see more and more children developing the condition, with an estimate that over 30% of children born in 2002 will become diabetic in their lifetimes. This is a worrying statistic as diabetes not only causes stress and anxiety, but can vastly decrease your life expectancy if not well controlled.

There are many risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, these include:

  • Obesity
  • Age over 45
  • Lack of exercise (less than 3 session of exercise per week)
  • Other family members with diabetes (parents, siblings, grandparents)
  • High blood pressure (over 140/90 mmHg)
  • Low HDL levels (‘good fats’)
  • High LDL levels (‘bad fats’)
  • Smoking (doubles your risk)
  • Damage to any blood vessels of the heart or major organs

Diabetes & Obesity

The greatest risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes is obesity. The people most at risk are those who have a poor diet which is coupled with low levels of exercise. The area of the body which has the most fat tissue is also of significance. If you have high levels of fat around your abdomen and upper body (‘apple’ shaped) you are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and possibly stroke. These risks are much lower if you have more fat around your hips (‘pear’ shaped).

Another condition that is thought to predispose to diabetes is called ‘metabolic syndrome’. This is a pre-diabetes condition that includes high levels of upper body fat, insulin resistance and high LDL levels.

Inheriting Diabetes

Around one third of patients who develop type 2 diabetes will have a related family member who also has the condition. Some researchers suggest that if you have a first degree relative (parent or sibling) who has the condition, your risk for developing the condition may be as high as 45%. This is not only due to genetic factors, but also to the environment that families share. If the parents do little exercise and do not eat well, then it is likely the children will, therefore elevating their risk of developing the condition.

Ethnicity & Diabetes

Another major risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes is Ethnicity. Ethnicity is your heritage, and certain races have higher risks of developing the condition than others. For example, African Americans, Mexicans and Asians are all twice as likely than Caucasian men to get type 2 diabetes.

Birth Weight & Diabetes

Recently, studies have shown that a low weight at birth can also determine how likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes. The studies that were done suggested that parents who had the condition seemed to have babies of lower birth weight. When followed up over a number of years, it seemed that these children also had a greater risk of getting the condition.

All these risk factors are additive, meaning that the more you have, the more likely it is that you will develop the condition. It is obvious however, that the major risk factor is obesity and lack of exercise, so by combating this, you can help to keep your risk of developing diabetes fairly low.


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