Diabetes Risk Factors
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs because the body is
unable to use blood sugar (glucose) properly. The exact cause of this malfunction
is unknown, but genetic and environmental factors play a part. Risk factors for
diabetes include obesity and high levels of cholesterol. Some specific causes are
Lack of Insulin Production
This may result from type 1 diabetes. It occurs when
insulin-producing cells are damaged or destroyed and stop producing insulin.
Insulin is needed to move blood sugar into cells throughout the body. The
resulting insulin deficiency leaves too much sugar in the blood and not enough
in the cells for energy.
This is specific to type 2 diabetes. It
occurs when insulin is produced normally in the pancreas, but the body is still
unable move glucose into the cells for fuel. At first, the pancreas will create
more insulin to overcome the body’s resistance. But eventually the cells “wear
out.” At that point the body slows insulin production, leaving too much glucose
in the blood.
A small percentage of pregnant women may develop gestational
diabetes. It’s thought that hormones developed in the placenta interfere
with the body’s insulin response. This leads to insulin resistance and high
levels of glucose in the blood.
Genetics plays a role in determining how likely you are to
develop some type of diabetes. Researchers don’t fully understand the role of genetics
in the development of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes
Association, statistics show that if you have a parent or sibling
with diabetes, your odds of developing it yourself increase.
According to the Mayo Clinic,
your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases as you age. Your risk goes up
after age 45 in particular. However, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is
increasing dramatically among children, adolescents, and younger adults. Likely
factors include reduced exercise, decreased muscle mass, and weight gain as you
age. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed by the age of 30.
Excess body fat can cause insulin resistance. Fatty tissue may
cause inflammation that can lead to insulin resistance. But as many overweight people
never develop diabetes, more research is needed on the link between obesity and
According to the American Diabetes Association,
poor nutrition can contribute to type 2 diabetes. A diet high in
calories, fat, and cholesterol increases your body’s resistance to insulin.
Lack of Exercise
Exercise makes muscle tissue respond better to insulin. This
is why regular aerobic exercise and resistance training can lower your diabetes
risk. Talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that is safe for you.
Although research is not conclusive, some ethnic groups seem
to have a higher rate of diabetes. This is true for:
- Native Americans
- Pacific Islanders
- Hispanic Americans
Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are
at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. According to the CDC, women
that deliver a baby that weighs more than 9 pounds are also at greater risk.