Diabetes is a very common disease. New updated data from the new International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Diabetes Atlas show that more than 34 million Americans have diabetes (1 in 10 individuals), of whom approximately 90-95% have type 2 diabetes. In UK the situation is slightly better: with nearly 4 million sufferers, about one in 16 people in the UK has diabetes. Over the past decade, the trend of rising obesity has definitely increased. As a major risk factor, obesity has directly influenced the increase in cases of diabetes. But let’s get a better understanding of what the main risk factors are for the different types of diabetes.
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes
- First degree relatives (parents, siblings) with type 1 diabetes
- Autoimmune diseases (e.g., thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, vitiligo).
- Autoimmune diseases among first-degree relatives
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
- First-degree relatives with type 2 diabetes
- Suboptimal blood glucose or HbA1c
- Previous gestational diabetes
- Excess body weight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Cigarette smoking
- Low HDL cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- High uricemia or gout
- Low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg)
- High birth weight (more than 4 kg)
- Woman who gave birth to a child weighing more than 4 kg
- Advanced age
If in the case of type 1 diabetes there are no proven forms of prevention, neither with a particular lifestyle nor with the assumption of drugs, in the case of type 2 diabetes it is possible to resort to various preventive actions by the patient. A low-calorie diet can greatly help obese people with high blood sugar to prevent diabetes. In fact, excess weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Consuming food in abundance, rich in sugars or animal fats determines a higher risk; vice versa, eating food rich in fiber (whole grains, legumes, vegetables) has instead beneficial effects. In addition to diet, mobility and physical activity also counteract the risk of type 2 diabetes. In the case of obese people, it is therefore advisable to carry out regular physical activity, from simple walks to sports. Pharmacological therapies (metformin, acarbose, rosiglitazone, pioglitazone), although paid for by the citizen and not by the health care or insurance system, support the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
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