Risk Factors for Diabetes
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes continued...
Obesity and diabetes are both epidemic in the U.S. The most-used measure for obesity is BMI, which stands for body mass index. BMI is a ratio, and can be determined using standard tables of height and weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher defines obesity. Here are some examples of how BMI is used:
- A woman who's 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds has a BMI of 20.
- A woman who's 5 feet 5 inches and weighs 180 pounds has a BMI of 30. She would be diagnosed as "obese."
- A woman who's 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 240 pounds has a BMI of 40. She would be diagnosed with "extreme obesity" or as having "clinically severe obesity."
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than one of every four Americans is obese, having a BMI of 30 to 39.9; 6% of Americans have clinically severe obesity, which means they have a BMI of 40 or greater.
Other risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include:
Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose. Prediabetes is a milder form of diabetes that's sometimes called impaired glucose tolerance. It can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Prediabetes is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The CDC estimates that as many as 79 million children and adults in the U.S. have prediabetes.
Insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes often starts with cells that are resistant to insulin. That means they are unable to take in insulin as it moves glucose from the blood into cells. With insulin resistance, the pancreas has to work overly hard to produce enough insulin so cells can get the energy they need. This involves a complex process that eventually leads to type 2 diabetes.
Ethnic background. Diabetes occurs more often in Hispanic/Latino Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives.
High blood pressure
. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for diabetes. High blood pressure is generally defined as 140/90 mm Hg or higher. Low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and high triglyceride levels also put you at risk.
History of gestational diabetes. If you developed diabetes while you were pregnant, you've had what is called gestational diabetes. Having had gestational diabetes puts you at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Sedentary lifestyle. Being inactive -- exercising fewer than three times a week -- makes you more likely to develop diabetes.
Family history. Having a family history of diabetes -- a parent or sibling who's been diagnosed with this condition -- increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Age. Some doctors advise anyone over age 45 to be screened for diabetes. That's because increasing age puts you at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It's important to remember, though, that people at any age can develop diabetes. If you're over 45 and overweight or if you have symptoms of diabetes, talk to your doctor about a simple screening test.