This is a brief review of the causes and risk factors of Diabetes before we get into the specifics of each type and your role in managing your condition.
Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes
Weight: The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin. However, not everyone with Type 2 Diabetes is overweight.
Inactivity: Although it’s difficult for most diabetics to understand, one of the causes and risk factors of Diabetes (and one of the most serious ones) is this: The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
Family history: Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has Type 2 Diabetes.
Race: Although it’s unclear why, people of certain races — including black Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans are at higher risk.
Age: The causes and risk factors of Diabetes increase as you get older. This may be because you tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as you age. But Type 2 Diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents, and younger adults.
Gestational diabetes: If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of developing Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes later on increases.
➡ Normally, your pancreas responds by producing enough extra insulin to overcome this resistance. But sometimes your pancreas can’t keep up.
➡ When this happens, too little glucose gets into your cells and too much stays in your blood, resulting in gestational diabetes.
Risk factors of Gestational Diabetes
Any pregnant woman can develop Gestational Diabetes, but some women are at greater risk than others. Risk factors for Gestational Diabetes include:
➡ Age: Women older than age 25 are at increased risk.
➡ Family or personal history: Your risk increases if you have prediabetes — a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes — or if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has type 2 diabetes.
➡ You’re also at greater risk if you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy if you delivered a very large baby (weighing more than 9 lbs., or if you had an unexplained stillbirth.
➡ Weight. Being overweight before pregnancy increases your risk.
➡ Race. For reasons that aren’t clear, women who are Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: For women, having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity) increases the risk of diabetes.
High blood pressure (Hypertension): Having blood pressure over 140/90 is linked to an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels: If you have low levels of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher.
- Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
➡ In both Prediabetes and in Type 2 Diabetes, your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, and your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome the resistance.
➡ Instead of moving into your cells where it’s needed for energy, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.
It’s unclear why this happens, but it’s believed that genetic and environmental factors also play a role in developing Type 2 Diabetes.
The causes and risk factors for diabetes depend on the type of diabetes.
The Causes And Risk Factors Of Diabetes Type 1
Although the exact cause of Type 1 Diabetes is unknown, factors that may signal an increased risk include:
➡ Family history: Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has Type 1 Diabetes.
➡ Environmental factors: Circumstances such as exposure to a viral illness likely play some role in Type 1 Diabetes.
➡ The presence of damaging immune system cells (autoantibodies):
If you have these autoantibodies, you have an increased risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes. Family members of people with Type 1 Diabetes are tested for them. However, not everyone who has these autoantibodies develops diabetes.
Dietary factors: These include
➡ Low vitamin D intake
➡ Early exposure to cow’s milk or cow’s milk formula
➡ Exposure to cereals before 4 months of age
However, none of these factors has been shown to directly cause Type 1 Diabetes.
Geography: Certain countries, such as Finland and Sweden, have higher rates of Type 1 Diabetes.
Taking the first steps toward managing the causes and risk factors of Diabetes can be scary. If you think you may be diabetic, please make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.
The sooner you get a confirmed diagnosis, the sooner you’ll be able to start the necessary changes to improve your odds of managing it well. Here’s a little “cheat sheet” to help you prepare for your appointment:
➡ Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes. If you’re monitoring your glucose values at home, bring a record of the glucose results, detailing the dates and times of testing.
➡ Make a list of any allergies you have and all medications, vitamins, and supplements you’re taking.
➡ Record your family medical history. In particular, note any relatives who have had diabetes, heart attacks or strokes.
➡ Take a family member or friend, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help you remember information you need.
➡ Write down questions to ask your doctor. Ask about aspects of your diabetes management you’re unclear about.
Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For diabetes, some questions to ask include:
- Are the symptoms I’m having related to diabetes or something else?
- Do I need any tests?
- What else can I do to protect my health?
- What are other options to manage my diabetes?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Are there restrictions I need to follow?
- Should I see another specialist, such as a dietitian (RD) or diabetes educator (CDE)?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can take with me?
- What websites do you recommend?
There you have it. Print these out and take them to your next Dr.’s appointment. Use them as a starting point for a conversation about your own risks and how best to manage each stage if it progresses.
If I can answer any questions for you, please feel free to reach out by using the “Get In Touch” link on the top menu of every page!