With more than 34 million Americans (just over 1 in 10) diagnosed with diabetes, and an additional 88 million adults with prediabetes, you might wonder whether you’re at an increased risk of developing the chronic condition.
It’s a natural question, given the prevalence of diabetes, which occurs when your body can’t produce the correct amounts of insulin to properly regulate the blood sugar levels in your body.
The answer is more complicated than just yes or no — there are some risk factors that you have no control over, and there are others that are completely under your control.
Here’s more information on the different types of diabetes and your risk factors for them, courtesy of the team at Arlington Family Practice in Arlington, Massachusetts.
What are the types of diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body attacks itself, causing an immune reaction that prevents insulin from being made. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin properly to move blood sugar into your cells.
Pregnant women can contract gestational diabetes, which typically goes away after delivery.
What risk factors are out of your control?
The only known risk factors for Type 1 diabetes are family history and age — it’s more likely to develop when you’re a child, teen, or young adult. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes that you can’t alter include family history, ethnicity, and age — the older you get, the greater your risk.
If you have gestational diabetes, you’re also more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life.
What risk factors can you control?
There’s really nothing you can do about Type 1 diabetes — we don’t yet know how to prevent it. When it comes to Type 2 diabetes, though, a little lifestyle modification can make a big difference.
Your risk of developing diabetes increases if you’re overweight or obese. The more weight you lose, even just 5%-10%, the more you decrease your risk. Regular physical activity can also lower your insulin resistance and help your body use its own insulin more effectively.
Several other factors come into play as well. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking all increase your risk of diabetes.
Eating healthy foods and keeping an eye on portion size are among the best things you can do to lower your risk. Also, limit your alcohol intake, manage your stress, and get plenty of sleep.
If you think you’re at risk for diabetes — or are concerned you already have it — the expert team at Arlington Family Practice can be a wonderful resource to help you determine your next steps. Call our office to set up an appointment, or request your visit with our online scheduler.