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Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes, List Keeps Growing

List of diabetes risk factors keeps growing

It seems every few weeks there is another study suggesting a new risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Because type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and has such a significant impact on overall health, it seems like a good time to look at some of the new potential risk factors for the disease and review those that have been established.

What are the potential risk factors for diabetes?

Before we look at the established risk factors for diabetes, recent research has uncovered some new potential issues to consider. For example:

A study from the United Kingdom indicated that having psoriasis may be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and that individuals with severe psoriasis had a greater risk than did those who had mild disease. The study involved 108,132 people with psoriasis and 430,716 who were psoriasis-free.

The apparent link between psoriasis and type 2 diabetes is inflammation. According to the study's authors, "this relationship may be driven by chronic inflammation because both psoriasis and T2DM [type 2 diabetes] are associated with elevated levels of Th1-driven inflammatory markers, and because several studies have pointed to endogenous insulin resistance in patients with psoriasis."

Low testosterone may raise the risk of type 2 diabetes among men. While research has shown that low testosterone levels are associated with insulin resistance, which in turn can trigger obesity and type 2 diabetes, new information uncovered in mouse studies shows low testosterone may prompt diabetes even when weight is normal.

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Yet another possible risk factor for type 2 diabetes is low levels of vitamin D, although the association is slightly circuitous. In the new study, which was presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting, researchers found a relationship between lower levels of vitamin D and metabolic syndrome, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Could your personal care products raise your risk of type 2 diabetes? In a new study appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives, scientists report they found a link between higher than average levels of phthalates (chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics and in personal care products) in the urine of women with diabetes.

A Harvard study from summer 2011 warned that hot dogs and other processed meats could raise the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than 50 percent. The study also reported that a 100-gram daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 19 percent increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Established risk factors for diabetes
It is possible for people to have several or even all of the following established risk factors for type 2 diabetes and never develop the disease. However, your chances of getting diabetes increases as the number of risk factors that apply to you rises.

  • Age: People older than 45 years old are at greater risk of getting the disease, although type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed at an increasing rate among younger people, and the next risk factor is one of the most significant reasons this is true.
  • Overweight/obesity: Excess body weight, especially around the midsection, increases risk. A body mass index of 25 or higher is considered overweight.
  • Family history of diabetes: A parent, brother or sister with diabetes can increase your chance of developing the disease
  • High blood pressure: 140/90 mmHg or higher
  • High triglyceride levels: Levels more than 250 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) increase your risk.
  • Diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • Impaired glucose tolerance: Blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as having diabetes. People with an impaired fasting glucose between 100 and 125 mg/dL have impaired glucose tolerance.
  • Low HDL cholesterol: A "good" cholesterol level less than 35 mg/dL raises your risk.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Physical exercise less than three times a week can increase risk
  • Metabolic syndrome: This is a combination of factors shown to increase the risk of diabetes, and this list does include individual risk factors for diabetes. The components of metabolic syndrome include a large waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar levels.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome: Women who suffer with polycystic ovarian syndrome produce an excess amount of androgens
  • Acanthosis nigricans: A condition characterized by thickened, dark skin around the armpits or neck.
  • Ethnicity: African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans have a higher risk for diabetes than do Caucasians.

The list of risk factors for type 2 diabetes keeps growing. How many of the established and potential risk factors for type 2 diabetes apply to you, and more important, what are you doing about them?

American Diabetes Association

Image: PhotosPublicDomain

Update July 4, 2014