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Diabetes Risk Factors

Risk factors

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes

It is still not known what causes type 1 diabetes. However, if you have a family member – mother, father, sister or brother - with type 1 diabetes, this slightly increases your risk. Some diseases of the pancreas and certain rare infections can inhibit the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin and can lead to type 1 diabetes.


Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

There are a number of risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Some of these can be modified by making lifestyle changes. For example, physical inactivity is a risk factor that can be changed. Other risk factors such as family history can’t be eliminated, but healthy lifestyle practices can help reduce some of the risk.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being 40 years of age or older
  • Having a family history (mother, father, brother, sister) of type 2 diabetes
  • Being a member of a high-risk ethnic population. For example, being of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent
  • Being overweight, especially around the abdomen
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or having given birth to a baby that is more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms)
  • Being diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes complications like eye, kidney or nerve problems or heart disease
  • Physical inactivity
  • Having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
  • Having been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Having been diagnosed with Acanthosis nigricans, which are darkened patches of skin
  • Having been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder
  • Having been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea
  • Having been prescribed a glucocorticoid medication by a doctor

If you have any of these risk factors, you should be checked for diabetes. Talk to your healthcare provider. You may be given one of three different tests to check your blood glucose level:

  • Fasting blood glucose (FPG) – this is a test that requires you to fast for at least 8 hours. However you may drink water.
  • Casual blood glucose – this test doesn’t require fasting.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test – this test requires you to take a special sweetened drink two hours prior to the blood test.
  • A1C – this blood test can be done at any time

You can check your risk right now with the Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire – CANRISK.

Having risk factors for diabetes does not mean that you will inevitably end up with the condition, but does indicate that your chances are greater than those of the general population.

Remember the good news: you can take steps to manage your blood glucose to help delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. Blood glucose levels can often be reduced through basic lifestyle changes such as following a healthy eating plan and starting a program of regular physical activity. Read our expert blogger’s article Eating to prevent diabetes. Click here if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes.

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