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Risk factors for type 2 diabetes mellitus


Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder in which blood glucose levels are increased. The disease typically manifests in adults as a result of a complex interplay between the genetic and environmental factors – because of that DM belongs to multifactorial diseases, illnesses that develop when various factors are present in one person. Being aware of risk factors that predispose one to diabetes mellitus helps to address the possible risks and thus delay or prevent the disease development.

Diabetes risk factorsAge

Type 2 diabetes mellitus usually develops in people at the age of 45 and older. The risk of developing diabetes mellitus is even greater after age 65.

Genetic predisposition

Individuals whose close relatives (parents or siblings) have diabetes mellitus have an increased risk of developing type 2 DM, almost 40% of individuals who suffer from type 2 DM have at least one parent with diabetes. This fact proves that diabetes mellitus type 2 is a genetically predisposed disease, many various mutations, and genetic variants were found to be related to increased risk of developing type 2 DM.


Several studies suggest that diabetes mellitus type 2 is more prevalent in Asian Americans, African-Caribbean, and Hispanics.


Overweight and obesity are associated with impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance of the tissues. Therefore, it increases the risks of developing diabetes.  Weight management may reverse the risks and improve blood glucose levels.

Impaired glucose tolerance

Impaired glucose tolerance is a condition when blood glucose levels are higher than reference values during an oral glucose tolerance test, although do not reach the levels characteristic for diabetes. Another condition associated with increased risk of DM is impaired fasting glucose in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal in the fasting state, although after food consumption it tends to reach normal values.

Women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome are prone to develop glucose intolerance and, therefore, have an increased risk of diabetes mellitus.

Gestational diabetes

Women who have increased glucose blood levels during pregnancy are at risk of developing type 2 DM within 10 years following childbirth.  Furthermore, giving birth to a large baby that weighs more than 9 pounds is also considered a risk factor.


Lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity and smoking increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus significantly. Maintaining physical activity helps to decrease resistance to insulin and reduce the risk of developing type 2 DM.


Consumption of sweetened beverages and processed, junk foods with a high amount of trans fats are associated with an increased risk of type 2 DM. On the contrary, a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables reduces the risks.


Consumption of alcohol and especially alcohol abuse is known to trigger numerous diseases including diabetes mellitus.

High blood pressure

Arterial hypertension is also associated with prediabetes and risk for DM.

High blood cholesterol

Dyslipidemia is linked to hyperglycemia and type 2 DM.

Mental disorders

Some medications prescribed for mental diseases including antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of diabetes mellitus, although the risks are relatively low.

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