Top 10 Risk Factors For Diabetes

Diabetes is far more common than you might expect; over 10% of the US population has diabetes. Many people also don’t know that “diabetes” isn’t just one disease, but actually a group of related diseases. What they have in common is that= your blood glucose levels are too high.

What Causes Diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when the body has trouble processing glucose in the bloodstream. Some of the most serious risk factors and causes for this condition include the following…

10. Genetics and Family History

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As with many medical conditions, your family history plays a significant role in your overall risk. Namely, if your immediate family members have a condition, it is very likely that you are also at risk. Therefore, if you have siblings or parents with diabetes, you should do what you can to mitigate your own risk. 

Why Genetics and Family History Increase Diabetes Risk

There are two types of diabetes, known as type 1 and type 2. The causes of type 1 diabetes are still unclear, though genetic factors appear to play a role. We share more than our genetics with our families, though; we also share history, locations, and lifestyles. These shared environmental risks also contribute to diabetes. 

Another big risk factor that you can’t change is age…

9. Age

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Age is one of the largest risk factors for diabetes. Specifically, people over 45 years of age have a higher risk factor for this condition than younger individuals. 

Why Age Increases Diabetes Risk

As we age, our bodies have a harder time keeping up with the demands of everyday life. This increases our risk of diabetes for several reasons. Not only does the body have a harder time managing blood glucose levels, but other risk factors like weight, cholesterol, and inactivity become harder to manage as we get older as well. 

One risk factor you can test for is the presence of autoantibodies… 

8. Presence of Autoantibodies

Autoantibodies concept art against black background

Antibodies are a natural and healthy part of our immune systems. These cells that hunt down and eliminate infectious threats. However, if the immune system becomes confused, it can attack healthy cells. 

Why The Presence of Autoantibodies Increases Diabetes Risk

Autoantibodies are antibodies that attack healthy cells instead of infectious threats. They can go after the parts of the body that produce insulin as well as the parts that manage our blood sugar levels. While the research into this risk factor is ongoing, a test for autoantibodies can help you stay informed about your overall diabetes risk. 

Another potential risk factor is the state of a person’s mental health… 

7. Poor Mental Health

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Our mental health is deeply connected to our overall well-being. When we go up against mental health problems, we often see that other aspects of our health start to decline. This is also true for diabetes. 

Why Poor Mental Health Increases Diabetes Risk

Depression in particular appears to have a strong link to diabetes. Researchers are still looking at the specifics of this relationship, but that do know that depression can make other diabetes risk factors worse. For instance, depression can contribute to weight gain, lack of exercise, and higher blood pressure, all of which are all diabetes risk factors. 

Individuals who are pregnant are at unique risk for diabetes… 

6. Gestational Diabetes

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Pregnancy has a powerful impact on the body. Weight gain, changes in the hairline, and even temporary diabetes are all possible outcomes. Monitoring blood sugar levels while pregnant can help keep you and your baby safer. 

Why Gestational Diabetes Increases Diabetes Risk

While pregnant, the body undergoes massive hormonal changes. Placental hormones released during pregnancy, for example, can cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket. This typically subsides after the pregnancy is over, although it can be a risk factor for diabetes in the future. 

While many of the risk factors for diabetes are outside of our control, there are fortunately risk factors we can change… 

5. Weight

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It’s a well-known fact that increased weight gain and diabetes are linked. Specifically, people who are overweight or obese have increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, this is often a risk factor that people can change. 

Why Weight Increases Diabetes Risk

As more fatty tissue builds up in the body, cells have a harder time responding to insulin. This means that the more overweight a person becomes, the greater the risk of diabetes becomes. It’s important to note, however, that this isn’t always the case. There are people of every body type with and without diabetes. 

Related to weight gain is another controllable risk factor… 

4. Inactivity 

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Josie Elias/

Staying physically active is always good for your health. Conversely, not getting enough activity is a large risk factor for diabetes. 

Why Inactivity Increases Diabetes Risk

Staying active helps lower your weight, which means inactivity increases odds of weight gain and therefore diabetes risk. When we are inactive, our blood sugar levels also build up and our cells have a harder time managing insulin. Getting some physical activity can thereby lower your risk for diabetes as well as lowering other risk factors. 

Related to staying fit is making sure you eat healthy foods… 

3. Your Diet

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What we eat is a vital part of our lives. Making sure you get healthy foods can help make sure that your health is solid for years to come. However, eating tons of sugary foods can conversely contribute to your risk of developing diabetes. 

Why Your Diet Increases Diabetes Risk

Diet can contribute to several risk factors for diabetes. Eating tons of sugary foods, for instance, can lead to higher blood sugar levels, weight gain, and make getting enough physical activity harder. All of these issues can increase diabetes risk. A poor diet furthermore can contribute to depression and other health conditions that can aggravate your diabetes risk. 

Related to diet is cholesterol levels… 

2. Extreme Cholesterol Levels

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Cholesterol is a complicated subject. That said, recent research has established the existence of both good and bad cholesterol that each play a role in the risk of diabetes. 

Why Extreme Cholesterol Levels Increases Diabetes Risk

The “good” cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. If HDL levels get too low, your risk for type 2 diabetes will increase. Higher forms of “bad” cholesterol, known as triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), can increase your risk. Your doctor can test your cholesterol levels and help you get your cholesterol levels where they should be. 

A risk factor linked to cholesterol is high blood pressure… 

1. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Cropped image of male doctor checking blood pressure of patient at table
Cropped image of male doctor checking blood pressure of patient at table/

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is no good for our health. For example, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart problems as well as type 2 diabetes.  

Why High Blood Pressure Increases Diabetes Risk

Having a blood pressure over 140/90 millimeters of mercury is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This high blood pressure is linked in with other risk factors, too. People with high blood pressure tend to also have poor diets, be inactive, and be older. As with many other health conditions, diabetes risks often rise and fall together. 

If you are concerned about your diabetes risk, there are things you can do to improve your odds. 

What To Do Next  

Your doctor can conduct tests that can determine whether or not you have diabetes as well as how your risk factors are doing. In the meantime, you can improve your diet, get active, and take care of your mental health. When you start to lower one risk factor, you’ll see another drop along with it. Taking care of your health in general is one of the best things you can do to lower your risk of diabetes. 


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