There are many risk factors for diabetes. Some of them come from our family history and genetics and so are with us always, but some can be turned around to help reverse or prevent diabetes.
The number one risk factor for diabetes is obesity. The National Center for Health Statistics states that 30% of adults are obese. That’s roughly 60 million people in the United states. Greater weight means a higher risk of insulin resistance, because fat interferes with the body’s ability to use insulin.
The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health (USA, 1996) states that “a sedentary lifestyle is damaging to health and bears responsibility for the growing obesity problems.” Inactivity and being overweight go hand-in-hand towards a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes. Muscle cells have more insulin receptors than fat cells, so a person can decrease insulin resistance by exercising.
Family History and Genetics
It appears that people who have family members that have been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes are at a greater risk for developing it themselves. African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans all have a higher than normal rate of type-2 diabetes. Having a genetic disposition towards type-2 is not a guarantee of a diagnosis however. Lifestyle plays an important part in determining who gets diabetes.
The older we get, the greater our risk of type-2 diabetes. Even if an elderly person is thin, they still may be predisposed to getting diabetes. Scientists theorize that the pancreas ages right along with us, and doesn’t pump insulin as efficiently as it did when we were younger. Also, as our cells age, they become more resistant to insulin as well.
High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are the hallmark risk factors for many diseases and conditions, including diabetes. Not only do they damage your heart vessels, but they are two key components in metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including obesity, a high fat diet, and lack of exercise. Having metabolic syndrome increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
History of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women. It begins when hormones from the placenta make the mother insulin resistant. Many women who have gestational diabetes develop type-2 diabetes years later. Their babies are also at some risk for developing diabetes later in life.
What is pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is a warning sign that you are at risk for getting type-2 diabetes. It means that your blood sugar is higher than it should be.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with pre-diabetes don’t have any symptoms. But if you have pre-diabetes you need to watch out for signs of diabetes, such as feeling very thirsty, urinating more often than usual, feeling very hungry or having blurred vision.
How is pre-diabetes diagnosed?
A health professional may diagnose pre-diabetes when fasting blood glucose (sugar) levels are between 6.1 and 6.9 Millimoles per litre (mmol/L).
(100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL) or 2 hours post stimulation of 7.8 and 11 millimoles to liter (140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL)
How is it treated?
The key to treating pre-diabetes and preventing type-2 diabetes is getting your blood sugar levels back to a normal range. You can do this by making healthy lifestyle choices and exercising on a regular basis.
Talk to your doctor, a diabetes educator, or a dietitian about an eating plan that will work for you.
Recently both the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) suggested that patients with pre-diabetes at the highest risk to develop diabetes may benefit by using medications (i.e. Metformin) to prevent diabetes.