Diabetes is a very common health condition, affecting 29.1 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. There are also different variations of the condition, including gestational, Type 1, and Type 2, which is the most common.
So what exactly puts you at risk? Read on to find out what controllable and uncontrollable factors can increase your chances of developing diabetes.
1. Family history
Family history is one factor that automatically increases your risk for being diagnosed — more specifically, having a parent or sibling who has it, as mentioned by WebMD. If someone in your family has diabetes, it’s extra important to practice healthy habits in order to lower your chances.
The role of genetics
Though a general family history of diabetes increases your risk, it’s important to note there are different risk factors associated with Type 1 and Type 2. According to the American Diabetes Association, most people who have Type 1 inherit risk factors from both parents. In the case of Type 2 diabetes, genetics play an even stronger role, but genetic susceptibility alone is likely not enough.
Though a healthy lifestyle is always important, those with Type 1 diabetes often have little control over the disease. That being said, researchers think some environmental factors, including early childhood diet, cold weather, and contracting viruses may play a role.
2. Advancing age
It’s true: As you get older, your chance of developing diabetes increases. Statistics show that in 2012, most people who were newly diagnosed fell between the ages of 45 and 64. But just because younger people don’t have as high a risk, doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to be diagnosed. During that same year, there were 371,000 new cases in people between the ages of 20 and 44. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder it’s constantly advised to watch your blood sugar levels.
3. Certain races
According to Mayo Clinic, a few ethnicities are more susceptible to diabetes. This includes American Indians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, although there’s no clear reason as to why.
4. Being overweight
According to MedicineNet, being overweight stresses the inside of cells, which can result in insulin resistance. This raises blood sugar levels in the body and makes you more susceptible to diabetes.
A few studies have examined the relationship between diabetes and a few unhealthy foods that are known to cause weight gain. This includes foods with a high glycemic index which raise blood sugar levels in the body, per the American Diabetes Association. One study found that consuming white bread and potatoes greatly increases diabetes risk for women.
With that being said, stay away from these options and other unhealthy foods that can cause weight gain, and opt for foods that can help lower your risk instead.
Being active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle in general, so it’s no surprise that the less active you are, the greater your chances of developing diabetes, per Mayo Clinic. But it’s not just lack of exercise that can increase risk. So can sedentary habits, like spending too much time watching television.
According to Pitt Public Health, a study found that for every hour spent a day watching television, the risk for diabetes increased by 3.4%. While that may not seem like a lot on its own, think of how easy it is to lose track of time while sitting on the couch with your eyes glued to the screen. Add all those hours together and what do you get? Too many to keep track of.
How to get moving
While watching television for hours is a habit you should certainly learn to limit, incorporating more movement into your life doesn’t have to be a chore. If you work at a desk job, see if there’s a standing desk available. Rich Gaspari, a personal trainer, tells Everyday Health standing during the day can increase leg strength and endurance, and it’s one of the easiest ways to get healthier quickly.
Other everyday activities like walking your dog or cleaning your house are also ways to get moving without thinking about it.
6. Having certain health conditions
Unfortunately, having certain health conditions can make you more likely to develop diabetes. Mayo Clinic says that this includes high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and irregular triglyceride and cholesterol levels. When it comes to triglycerides (a type of fat that’s carried in the blood) the article mentions that having high levels can increase risk. Additionally, so can having low levels of the good HDL cholesterol. If you have any of these or other existing health conditions, it’s best to speak with your doctor to learn more about your chances of being diagnosed and what you can do to lower your risk.
7. Poor sleeping habits
Sleep plays a crucial role in your overall health. Not only can the amount of sleep you get each night affect your memory and heart health, but it also influences your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to a meta-analysis, getting more or less than seven hours of shuteye each night has a significant impact on risk for the condition. The study found that even one additional or lost hour is enough to raise your chances. So make sure you aim for that magic number of seven hours of sleep each night.
How to catch more Zs
Getting that magic seven hours of sleep sounds easy enough, but there could be a few reasons you’re still waking up exhausted. If you’re the type to watch TV or stare at your phone until you fall asleep, you’ll want to cut this habit out an hour before bed. Researchers suspect the blue light from your electronics is throwing off your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. The blue light tricks your body into thinking it’s actually daylight, thus making you more alert than you should be just before bed.