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Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine

 
Risk factors


Most scientists agree that these things affect the risk of diabetes. Some may apply to you, but others may not.
Age
Personal history
Family history
Race and ethnicity
Weight and waist
Tobacco smoke
Physical activity
Diet
Alcohol




Factors that increase a person's risk of Type 2 diabetes but cannot be changed include:

Age and diabetes
The risk of type 2 diabetes increases with age, and it is most common in people over the age of 40.

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Personal history of diabetes or high blood sugar
People who have had problems with high blood sugar in the past may be at higher risk of developing diabetes. Women who have had diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes) are also at higher risk of developing diabetes later in life.

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Family history and diabetes
A person with a close relative who had diabetes has a higher risk of developing the disease. This increased risk is probably due to a combination of shared genes and shared lifestyle factors.

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Race and ethnicity
Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, compared to whites.

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Most risk factors for diabetes can be modified to reduce risk, either through lifestyle changes or through medication, if needed.

These include:


Weight, waist size and diabetes
The risk of Type 2 diabetes goes up as body weight increases. This is especially true for people who carry extra body fat around the waist (called "apple shaped"). Extra weight affects the body's sensitivity to insulin and it also puts extra strain on the whole body, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Maintaining a healthy weight has been proven to decrease the risk of cancer of the colon, kidney, breast and uterus.

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Tobacco smoke and diabetes
Smoking increases the risk of diabetes. Smoking can increase blood sugar levels and decrease the body's ability to use insulin. It can also change the way the body stores excess fat - increasing fat around the waist, which is linked to diabetes. The damage that tobacco chemicals do to blood vessels, muscles and organs may also increase the risk of diabetes.

Tobacco exposure also increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, emphysema, bronchitis, osteoporosis, and cancers of the lung, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, lip, mouth, tongue, larynx, throat and esophagus. For many people, quitting smoking is the single best thing they can do to improve their health.

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Physical activity and diabetes
Exercise is one of the best ways to help maintain a healthy weight, a key factor in lowering the risk of diabetes. Exercise also helps the body's cells use insulin effectively, which makes it easier to control blood sugar levels. In addition, exercise also helps prevent other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and colon cancer. Even just 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking) daily can decrease your risk of disease.

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Diet and diabetes
Diet can be a powerful tool for lowering the risk of diabetes. The best approach? Eat a diet that focuses on whole grains, cereal fiber, and liquid vegetable oils and limits refined starches (like potatoes and white bread).

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Alcohol and diabetes
Moderate alcohol (about one drink a day for women and two for men) has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes compared to non-drinkers. Limited use of alcohol may also decrease the risk of developing heart disease. However, it is not recommended that non-drinkers start drinking. Alcohol use has many of its own risks like increasing blood pressure, body weight, heart failure, addiction, suicide and accidents. People who limit their use of alcohol also have a lower risk of colon cancer, and breast cancer.

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