Researchers don't fully understand why some people develop type 2 diabetes and others don't. It's clear, however, that certain factors increase the risk, including:

  • Weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
  • Fat distribution. If your body stores fat primarily in your abdomen, your risk of type 2 diabetes is greater than if your body stores fat elsewhere, such as your hips and thighs.
  • Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
  • Family history. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases if your parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
  • Race. Although it's unclear why, people of certain races — including blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans — are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than whites are.
  • Age. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45. That's probably because people tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as they age. But type 2 diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents and younger adults.
  • Prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Left untreated, prediabetes often progresses to type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes. If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of later developing type 2 diabetes increases. If you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms), you're also at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Jan. 25, 2013