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Top 7 Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

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Updated November 09, 2010

There are many risk factors for type 2 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 type 2 diabetes. What are they and what can we do to cut the risk?

1. Obesity

The number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes is obesity. The National Center for Health Statistics states that 30% of adults are obese. That's 60 million people. Greater weight means a higher risk of insulin resistance, because fat interferes with the body's ability to use insulin. According to the same study, the number of overweight kids has tripled since 1980. The number of children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has also risen.

2. Sedentary Lifestyle

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. Muscle cells have more insulin receptors than fat cells, so a person can decrease insulin resistance by exercising. Being more active also lowers blood sugar levels by helping insulin to be more effective. It's a win-win.

3. Unhealthy Eating Habits

Ninety% of people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Unhealthy eating contributes largely to obesity. Too much fat, not enough fiber, and too many simple carbohydrates all contribute to a diagnosis of diabetes. Eating right is can turn the diagnosis around and reverse or prevent Type 2.

4. Family History and Genetics

It appears that people who have family members who 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.

5. Increased Age

It's a sad but true fact. 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.

6. High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

These two bad boys are the hallmark risk factors for many diseases and conditions, including type 2 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.

7. 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.

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