Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

What is diabetes?

According to The Art and Science of Diabetes Self-Management Education by American Association of Diabetes Educators, Diabetes is defined as a “chronic, progressive metabolic disorder characterized by abnormalities in the ability to metabolize carbohydrate, fat and protein, leading to hyperglycemia state”. A long-term hyperglycemic (elevated blood sugar) state can lead to organ and vascular damage to the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Prevalence in the US

Almost half the US population is estimated to have prediabetes or diabetes.

  • 10% population diagnosed with diabetes (85-90% type 2 diabetes).
  • 37% population estimated to have prediabetes.

Importance of Lifestyle Interventions

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is a landmark study that monitored individuals at high risk for developing diabetes. Individuals were put into three groups, lifestyle modification (eating habits, exercise and weight loss), pharmacologic (metformin) and a placebo group. The results were very promising for the lifestyle intervention group showing a 58% reduction in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes, following a 31% reduction with pharmacologic intervention.

What are the risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes?

Overweight or obese

  • BMI >25 or BMI >23 Asian Americans

Prior diagnosis of prediabetes

  • Impaired fasting glucose >100 or Alc >5.7

Family history of diabetes

  • First degree relative (mother, father or sibling)


  • African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander

History of cardiovascular disease (CVD)


  • >140/90 or on therapy for hypertension


  • HDL <35 mg/DL or triglycerides >250 mg/dL

Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Physical inactivity

Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM)


  • 45 and older

Monitor your risk

Click here to use the American Diabetes Association risk calculator.

By Allie Coulter, RD, CD, PRO Medical Registered Dietitian

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