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A person checking their blood glucose levels with a handheld meter.

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent and costly diseases in the United States. It affects over 37 million Americans, and most people are unaware that they have it. Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of the disease. Like many conditions, there are risk factors related to type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors

What is the definition of a risk factor? It is anything that increases your chances of developing a disease. If someone suspects that they have type 2 diabetes, there are several risk factors to look for.

Inherent Risk Factors

There are some risk factors that can not be changed such as the following:

Family history. If you have a close family member with diabetes, your risk for developing the disease increases significantly. Know your family history and share it with your health care provider.

Race or ethnicity. There is no clear reason why but certain races and ethnicities are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than White people are. People that are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islander are at a greater risk. A 2019 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) broke down the rate of type 2 diabetes among racial/ethnic groups. Below are the results.

  • White people — 12%
  • Asian people — 19.1%
  • Black people — 20.4%
  • Latino people — 22.1%

Lifestyle and culture may play a role, although some studies show the risk goes beyond just weight and physical activity.

Age. The older you are, the higher your risk. Middle-aged adults (especially those over the age of 40) are more susceptible to type 2 diabetes. More children and adolescents are being diagnosed also.

Gestational diabetes. You have an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life if you have it during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes. Keep a check on your blood glucose more often after you have given birth.

Other Risk Factors

There are some risks that you can and should do something about. Healthy changes can delay development and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Being aware of these risk factors and how you can get them under control will minimize your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Weight. Obesity increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. A weight loss of 5 to 10 percent, along with incorporating physical activity, can greatly reduce the possibility of advancement of the disease.

Stress. Managing stress is imperative to lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes. Emotions can trigger your fight-or-flight responses, which can determine making healthy choices or not. Some choose to make unhealthy choices — such as smoking, binge eating, and alcohol consumption — which can affect your overall health if the pattern continues. Find healthy ways to deal with stress, such as physical activity, meditation, reading, talking with others, and getting enough sleep. Those small changes can make a difference to living a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically.

Food choices. Eating the correct amounts of healthy foods is the most important thing you can do to lower your risk for diabetes. Incorporating the correct portion sizes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your daily meal routine can lower your chances of type 2 diabetes. Making these changes can help keep your weight manageable and diabetes at bay.

Physical activity. Consistent physical activity has been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. It can help with insulin resistance, because it can trigger the body to use its own insulin more effectively. You should aim for 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity.

Smoking. Because of the thousands of harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, it can decrease the way insulin works in the body by damaging the cells. If you smoke, you need to plan to quit, and there are several options out there, such as medications and online resources, that can help you. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about the best choice for you.