What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition wherein the body either can’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s insulin response is insufficient. This causes blood sugar to be consistently too high, which can cause problems. 

While there is no one universal cause of the condition, you can read more about some of the Type 2 Diabetes risk factors below.


Obesity is the risk factor most often associated with developing Type 2 diabetes, as many people who are clinically overweight eventually develop the condition. However, not all people who develop Type 2 diabetes are overweight. You can reduce your risk by reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight with diet and exercise. 

As well as your overall body weight, where fat is distributed on the body can also be a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. People who store high levels of body fat around their abdomen are generally at higher risk than those who store fat in their lower body. Your risk is considered higher if you are a man with a waist above 40in, or a woman with a waist above 35in. 

Level of physical activity

The less active you are, the higher your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – and not because less active people are more at risk of being overweight. Physical activity helps the body to use glucose and improves insulin response. As a bonus, it also enables you to maintain a healthy body weight.


As with many other conditions, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases if a close relative, such as a parent or sibling has the condition.


The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases as you age – especially after the age of 45. This is because many things that reduce risk, such as physical activity, tend to decrease after the age of 45. It’s also easier to gain fat and lose muscle mass from the body, which also raises the risk. However, like most risk factors, this is not a hard and fast rule; cases of Type 2 diabetes are also on the increase in children, teenagers, and young adults.  


While it is not known why, people of certain races have a higher risk of developing diabetes than others – black, Hispanic, and Asian-American people are more likely to develop it than their white counterparts.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common condition that affects millions of women. It has symptoms including irregular periods, obesity, and excessive hair growth, and is also considered a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. 

History of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs only during pregnancy and goes away by itself after birth. However, people who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the past are at higher risk of developing Type 2 in the future. People who have given birth to children at a birth weight of more than 9lb are also at higher risk.


Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated above normal but are not considered high enough to warrant a Type 2 diagnosis. Left untreated, this condition often progresses to full-blown diabetes, so if you have a prediabetes diagnosis, it is important to treat the condition right away.

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