Diabetes Prevention (Type 2 Diabetes)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Type 2 Diabetes: Learn the Warning Signs

Quick GuideDiabetes Pictures Slideshow: 20 Reasons for Blood Sugar Swings

Diabetes Pictures Slideshow: 20 Reasons for Blood Sugar Swings

What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?

The risk factors for developing diabetes actually vary depending on where a person lives. This is in part due to the environment the person lives in, and in part due to the genetic makeup of the family. In the United States, it is estimated that one in three males and two out of every five females born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes (the lifetime risk). It has also been calculated that for those diagnosed with diabetes before the age of 40, the average life expectancy is reduced by 12 years for men, and 19 years for women.

The risk for developing diabetes increases in certain cases such as the following.

  • Genetics: People with a close relative with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk.
  • Ethnic background: For example, the actual prevalence of diabetes in the Caucasian population of the US is about 7.1% while in the African American population; it increases to about 12.6%. Approximately 8.4% of Asian Americans and 11.6% of Hispanic Americans are affected. In a well-studied group of Native Americans, the Pima Indians, the prevalence increases to almost 35%.
  • Birth weight: There is a relationship between birth weight and developing diabetes, and it's the opposite of what one might intuitively think. The lower the birth weight the higher the risk of type 2 diabetes. At the other end of the spectrum, a very high birth weight (over 8.8 pounds or 4 kg) also is associated with an increased risk. Additionally, mothers of infants who had a higher birth weight (over 9 pounds) are at increased risk for developing diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome: People who have the metabolic syndrome are at especially high risk for developing diabetes.
  • Obesity: Obesity is probably the most impressive risk factor and in most situations the most controllable. This is in part due to the fact that obesity increases the body's resistance to insulin. Studies have shown that reversal of obesity through weight reduction improves insulin sensitivity and regulation of blood sugar. However, the distribution of fat is important. The classic "pear" shaped person (smaller waist than hips) has a lower risk of developing diabetes than the "apple" shaped person (larger around the waist). The exact reason for this difference is unknown, but it is thought to have something to do with the metabolic activity of the fat tissue in different areas of the body.
  • Gestational diabetes: Women who have gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Is gestational diabetes a risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life?

The simple answer is yes. The risk for type 2 diabetes is higher in women who have had gestational diabetes (diabetes of pregnancy). In general, type 2 diabetes will occur in about 40% of women with gestational diabetes over the following 10 years. This number increases to the 50% range in obese women.

There are efforts underway to see if treating women with gestational diabetes (using lifestyle, and medications such as thiazolidinediones) can change the course of development of type 2 diabetes. The results appear promising, and further work is being done to identify who will potentially respond to treatment.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/14/2016
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Diabetes Prevention - Risk Factors

    Are you concerned that you may have the risk factors for diabetes? What steps have you taken to decrease your risk?

    Post
  • Diabetes Prevention - Symptoms

    What were your symptoms associated with diabetes?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Diabetes Prevention - Medications

    What medications are you currently taken, or have taken in the past to help prevent type 2 diabetes?

    Post
  • Diabetes Prevention - Diet

    What diet changes have you found to help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

    Post
  • Diabetes Prevention - Experience

    Please share your experience with preventing diabetes, for example, diet or other lifestyle changes such as exercise.

    Post

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors