These 7 Things Could Make You More Likely to Get Diabetes, According to a Dietitian
According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 3 American adults is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. There are a number of factors that can increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes—some of which you can control and some you cannot. Either way, it's good to know what they all are to help identify if you're at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes—plus what you can do to help prevent the condition from developing in the first place. Thankfully, a healthy diet and lifestyle can go a long way in reversing some of these risk factors!
1. You're getting older
If you are 45 years old or older, you have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to improve this risk factor. However, simply knowing that your risk increases as you age might just be the motivation you need to kick-start the healthy habits that help protect you from developing diabetes and other chronic diseases.
2. You have a parent or sibling with diabetes
If a blood-relative parent, brother or sister has type 2 diabetes, that puts you at higher risk to get diabetes, too. While you can't change your genetics, knowing this gives you the opportunity to be extra proactive about adopting the healthy habits that can help protect you from developing prediabetes or diabetes—while ditching the habits that can be harmful.
Plus, knowing this may prompt your primary care physician to do testing earlier or more regularly to stay ahead of the condition and improve your odds.
3. You're overweight
Being overweight impacts your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It can also increase your chances of having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and high blood sugar and of experiencing a stroke. According to the American Diabetes Association, losing even 10 to 15 pounds can make a huge difference.
Rather than relying on fad diets that can actually do more harm than good, instead focus on making small changes over time to modify your lifestyle to be healthier. Think eating breakfast daily, using smaller plates and bowls to make portion control easier and doing a physical activity you enjoy and building up the intensity and duration over time. And remember, healthy, lasting weight loss is usually 1 to 2 pounds per week.
4. You're not exercising
We all could use a little more physical activity in our lives, especially those of us who have desk jobs. Exercise is important for lots of reasons, one major factor being the protective benefits it has when it comes to preventing chronic diseases, like diabetes. The immediate effects physical activity has on blood sugars are pretty impressive, too. Exercise helps clear excess glucose from your bloodstream, and one study actually found that in people with type 2 diabetes, exercise improved insulin sensitivity (how effective your cells are at utilizing insulin) for up to 72 hours after the activity.
The American Diabetes Association recommends staying physically active most days of the week, or aiming for about 150 minutes of activity per week. This looks something like walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. And every little bit of movement counts. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or set an alarm to help remind yourself to stand up from your desk each hour.
Check in with your health professional—especially if you're currently treating other conditions—before beginning a new exercise program to make sure it's right for you.
5. You have high blood pressure
Close to half of all American adults (45%) have high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or take medication for high blood pressure, this puts you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and experiencing a stroke. To control your high blood pressure, changing up parts of your diet and lifestyle can help. Some dietary changes that can help reduce blood pressure include choosing whole-grain breads and cereals, replacing some of the salt in your diet with herbs and spices, choosing lower-sodium foods with 400 milligrams of sodium or less per serving, and limiting alcohol (or eliminating it completely).
Your doctor may also deem medication necessary to control your high blood pressure. It's important to work with your health care provider to find a treatment plan that works for you.
6. You have low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol
When you look at HDL or "good" cholesterol, the higher the better! Studies show that having low HDL cholesterol increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. Eating a healthy diet, with a focus on foods high in fiber and heart-healthy fats (think beans, lentils, whole grains, salmon and olive oil), as well as getting regular physical activity and losing weight if you're overweight can all help improve HDL levels.
7. You enjoy alcohol a little too much
Drinking too much alcohol can cause inflammation in the pancreas and limit its ability to produce adequate insulin for your body. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people who drink alcohol do so in moderation, which is defined as no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. One drink is defined as 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol by volume), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol by volume), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol by volume).
There are numerous factors that can increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Some are not modifiable, but many you can do something about. If you're unsure on how to get started, you can always seek the assistance of a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) in your area or speak to your doctor. To find a RDN near you, go to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website and click on the green "Find a Nutrition Expert" tab on the right of your screen.