Risk Factors for Diabetes

Diabetic nerve damage is very common among diabetics. In fact, nerve damage is one of the most common diabetes-related complications. The first step to prevent diabetic nerve damage is to prevent diabetes, since diabetes is a lifelong condition that would lead to nerve damage and other health conditions if left untreated. Do you know that some factors or conditions can actually put you at higher risk of getting diabetes? Knowing whether you are at risk and making appropriate diet and lifestyle changes early are good ways to prevent the onset of diabetes and diabetic nerve damage. Learn more about the risks of:

Type 1 Diabetes

Definite risk factors for type 1 diabetes are currently not known though it is known that having a family member (parent, sibling) with type 1 diabetes slightly increases the risk. Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Non- Modifiable Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Family history of diabetes

           If you have a relative, especially a parent or sibling with diabetes, your risk for developing it is significantly increased.

  • Age

           The older you are, the higher your risk. In Malaysia, people aged 30 years or older are prone to develop diabetes.

  • History of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)

          If you have been diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy or delivered a large baby over 4.0 kg, you are at increased risk of

          developing type 2 diabetes.

Modifiable Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Being overweight or obese

The more fatty tissues you have, the less sensitive your cells become to insulin. Being overweight or obese, which is measured as a body mass index of greater than 25.0 for overweight or greater than 30.0 for obesity will increase your risk of having diabetes.

Note: Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

  • Physical inactivity

Along with overweight/obesity, physical inactivity ranks among the top modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The less active you are, the  greater you are at risk of type 2 diabetes. Being physically active increases your cell’s sensitivity to insulin, helps to use up glucose as energy and helps control your body weight.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

In addition to causing damage to the cardiovascular system, untreated high blood pressure (at or above 140/90mmHg) has been linked to the development of diabetes.

  • High cholesterol levels

If you have low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, you are at risk of type 2 diabetes. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. High triglycerides can also increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.

  • High waist circumference

Having excessive fat in your tummy, which is measured as a waist circumference of greater than 80cm in women or greater than 90cm in men, will increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • Having been diagnosed with pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose)

          High blood glucose is a substantial risk factor for diabetes and in the long run, heart disease and stroke.

HbA1c Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
Normal < 5.7% <5.6mmol/L
Pre-diabetes 5.7%-6.4% 5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L 7.8 mmol/L to 11.0 mmol/L
Diabetes 6.5% or higher 7 mmol/L or higher 11.1 mmol/L or higher

If you experience any of the signs and symptoms of diabetes, you are advised to consult your healthcare provider. If you don’t have symptoms, but have the risk factors, you should still get checked. Note that many people with type 2 diabetes may not display any symptoms.

Knowing your risk factors, early detection of symptoms and timely treatment are good ways to prevent or manage diabetes and related complications such as diabetic nerve damage and foot ulcers.


» view references

1. American Diabetes Association
2. American Heart Association

» hide references


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