Anyone, anywhere, at any age can develop diabetes
Many adults have had diabetes for several years before their symptoms are recognised. By the time they are diagnosed, a great many have already started to develop the complications of diabetes – visual impairment, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and nerve damage. In many parts of the world, people with diabetes are not diagnosed at all.
Spotting diabetes early means that it can be treated and the risk of the serious complications can be greatly reduced.
A number of factors contribute to the likelihood of someone developing diabetes.
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes
These are not very well defined, but it would appear that genetic and environmental factors could trigger the development of this type of diabetes. If there is someone in your family who has diabetes, then your chances of developing the disease are increased.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
90–95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This type usually occurs in people over the age of 40 but is now also affecting children and adolescents to a greater extent. The older you are, the greater your risk of diabetes.
Over 80 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. The more overweight you are, the greater your risk of diabetes.
A family history of diabetes
Research has shown that people are more at risk if there is a history of diabetes in close family members. The closer the relative, the greater your risk of diabetes.
Research has shown that people who do not lead an active life are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The less exercise you do, the greater your chances of developing diabetes.
Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)
A healthy person’s blood sugar is usually between 70 and 110 mg/dL (milligrams of glucose in 100 millilitres of blood) or, in millimols, between 3.9 and 6.0 mmol/L. Impaired glucose tolerance is a level of blood glucose which is higher than normal, but not high enough to be in the range where doctors classify this as diabetes.
As far as we know, race and ethnicity are important in determining the possibility of a person developing diabetes. Little research, however, has been undertaken outside of the United States. Within that population, African–Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian–Americans and Pacific Islanders are more likely to have diabetes.
Diabetes during pregnancy
Some women develop a temporary type of diabetes called ‘Gestational diabetes’ when they are pregnant. Gestational diabetes develops in 2–5% of all pregnancies, but usually disappears when the pregnancy is over. However, women who have had gestational diabetes or who have given birth to a large baby (4kg/2lb or greater) are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a later stage in their lives.
If you think that you are at risk of developing diabetes, you should talk to a healthcare professional.
Source: International Diabetes Federation