There are five key risk factors that predispose many people to develop type 2 diabetes:
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Having African, Native American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander heritage
- Having a history of gestational diabetes (developing during pregnancy) or having given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- Being overweight
- Being inactive
As you can see, some of these risk factors are out of your control to change; you can't pick your parents or your ethnic background, after all. You can inherit a tendency for diabetes—that's one reason why it tends to run in families. Type 2 diabetes is also more common in people who belong to certain ethnic groups.
But genetics aren't the whole story, since many people who are predisposed to developing diabetes never do. And the incidence of type 2 diabetes, once considered a disease of adults, has climbed in the last 30 years among adults and children, even though our collective gene pool hasn't changed. Clearly the environment we live in plays a role.
In recent decades, for many of us, food has become cheaper, more abundant and always within reach, while at the same time, computerization of our work and leisure time gives us fewer reasons to move our bodies. As a result, we're eating more, and moving less, than ever. Many experts fault this so-called "obesigenic" environment for the finding that nearly two-thirds of American adults are now classified as overweight or obese. Since both excess weight and lack of activity are key risk factors for developing diabetes, it's not surprising that the prevalence of diabetes has grown alarmingly, along with the obesity rate.
The good news about this scenario is that our environment is something we can have control over. Taking healthy steps like eating better, losing weight if you need to and making a commitment to becoming more active can have major effects on your blood-glucose levels. For many people with diabetes, these lifestyle changes can make all the difference, no matter how many risk factors they have.
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