To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, Know the Risks
Prasad Katta, MD
With more than
30.3 million Americans living with diabetes, an estimated
90 to 95 percent of those have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Caused by a combination of your body’s inability to effectively use
insulin and insufficient insulin production, Type 2 diabetes can have
some serious health consequences. Not only is it the
7th leading cause of death in the United States, its long-term effects can include damage to the
eyes, kidneys, and nerves, as well as an increased risk of heart disease
However, although it’s the most common form of diabetes, Type 2 diabetes
is also the most preventable.
You may have heard of, or been diagnosed with,
prediabetes. This means that, while your blood glucose levels aren’t high enough
to be considered diabetic, you possess characteristics that indicate that
you’re at an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. Basically, it’s
a warning sign that says, “Hey, unless you make some immediate and
permanent lifestyle changes, you’re going to get diabetes.”
So, with prevention in mind, here are some Type 2 diabetes risk factors
that you inherit and ones that you’re able to control.
As you age, your risk for developing diabetes increases. This, in large
part, is due to decreased beta cell function within your pancreas (the
cells are responsible for insulin production). Those over the age of 45
are at an increased risk for developing diabetes.
While one’s sex, in itself, is not a risk factor, whether or not
a woman has developed gestational diabetes (GDM) during pregnancy is.
In fact, research suggests that a woman who has had GDM is at as much
as 7 times higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Race or Ethnicity
Although it’s still unclear whether discrepancies in diabetes prevalence
is due to genetics or the lifestyles and diets of certain cultures, there
are some races and ethnicities that have higher diabetes rates. According to the
American Diabetes Association, the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes is highest in Native American
and Pacific Islander populations, followed by African Americans, Hispanics,
Asians and Caucasians, in descending order of risk.
Having a close family member (mother, father or sibling) with diabetes
is an indicator of a genetic predisposition toward that condition. The
more relatives with diabetes you have, the greater your chance of getting
diabetes. For instance, people who have one parent with diagnosed Type
2 diabetes have about a 30 percent chance of developing it over their
lifetimes. With two parents, it’s about a 60 percent chance.
High Blood Pressure
Also called hypertension, high blood pressure is a risk factor for a number
of serious conditions including diabetes. In fact, around 25 percent of
people with Type 1 diabetes and 80 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes
also have high blood pressure.
In addition to the many other health benefits that come with physical
activity, exercise helps lower your blood glucose levels, manage weight
and lower your risk for hypertension. When a patient asks how often they
should be exercising, I tell them that they should exercise any day they
eat, but the American Diabetes Association suggests you aim for 30 minutes
a day, 5 days a week.
Your BMI, or body mass index, is a calculation of your body weight to
height ratio. While by no means a perfect indicator of a person’s
health, it’s a standard screening tool to approximate body composition.
In the case of diabetes, the accumulation of fat in one’s liver
can affect the insulin production, causing diabetes. You can calculate your BMI
here, but the further away you are from a healthy body mass, the greater your
chance is for developing diabetes.
An important thing to remember about risk factors is that no one characteristic
will definitively determine whether or not you develop Type 2 diabetes.
Rather, it’s an accumulation of risk factors and how they interact
to cause or complicate conditions.
If you think you’re at increased risk for developing diabetes, I
suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care provider
who can diagnose and treat your diabetes. Your PCP can also refer you
to an endocrinologist, like myself, who specializes in the diagnosis and
management of glandular diseases like diabetes.
If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with the disease, learn
more about how the team at the
Washington Outpatient Diabetes Center can teach you to better manage your condition.
Posted March, 2019