Diabetes 1 & 2 | Causes/Risk factors

Causes and Risk Factors:

The exact causes of diabetes are still unknown. However, heredity, obesity and lack of exercise may play a role. Here are some general risk factors:

  1.    Your siblings or parents have diabetes.
  2.    You are more than 20% overweight.
  3.    You do not exercise.
  4.    You have had gestational diabetes or you have had a baby over 9 lbs.
  5.    You have high blood pressure.
  6.    Your cholesterol level is not normal.

The risk actually varies depending on where you live. This is in part due to the environment you live in, and in part due to the genetic makeup of your family. In the United States, the lifetime risk of developing diabetes is estimated at 33% for males and 39% for females for people born in the year 2000. It has also been calculated that for those diagnosed 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 7.2% while in the African American population, it increases to about 11%. In a well known 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 you'd intuitively think. The lower the birth weight the higher the risk of type 2 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. 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" shape person (smaller waist than hips) has a lower risk of developing diabetes than the "apple" shape 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.


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