Diabetes Risks Factors

Diabetes is a chronic condition that causes a person to experience high or low blood sugar levels. There are two types of diabetes, known as type 1 and type 2, with the latter being far more common. Approximately 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. The condition affects nearly three million people in the UK, with an estimated one million more undiagnosed. Many people are diagnosed up to 10 years after experiencing initial symptoms, so knowing the risk factors for type 2 diabetes is essential.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, experts warn that by 2040 over 640 million of us will be living with the condition. The infographic below shows the leading facts about diabetes:

10 Facts About Diabetes

Diabetes Risk Factors

There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1 is where the body produces no insulin at all, and blood sugar levels need to be controlled via an insulin pump or injections. The causes of type 1 diabetes are not entirely known. This type accounts for around 10% of all diabetes cases.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when either the body does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin does not work properly. Type 2 accounts for 85% to 95% of people with diabetes. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being overweight or have a high BMI
  • You have a waist that is more than 31.5 inches (women) or 35-37 inches (men)
  • Being over 40
  • Your family having a history of diabetes
  • You have or have had high blood pressure, stroke, or heart problems
  • You are of African-Caribbean, Black African, Chinese or South Asian descent
  • You have a history of PCOS, gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby over 10 pounds/4.5kg
  • You have taken medication for schizophrenia, bipolar illness or depression

Signs you may have diabetes

For a lot of people, the symptoms of diabetes are not obvious. When glucose isn't being converted to energy by insulin, the body tries to get rid of it in other ways. This causes symptoms such as excessive urination, thirst, tiredness and weight loss. Leaving diabetes untreated can lead to serious health complications.

Reducing your risk of diabetes

Careful lifestyle changes you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although it is worth noting that is in some cases (family history, other medications) this may not be the case. If you are in a high-risk category for developing the condition, it is advised that you:

  • Eat healthily (a diet that is low in fat and saturated sugar sugars but includes fresh vegetables and lean meat is advised)
  • Lose weight, if you are overweight (see risk factors)
  • Exercise regularly

Diabetes Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and are struggling to control your blood sugar, despite making lifestyle changes, there are several medications that can help. Take a look at our treatments table to find out more about the options available to you.

Support Groups


Diabetes.org.uk is the UK's leading diabetes charity, with more than 300,000 supporters, including 6,000 healthcare professionals. They are experts on diabetes care, treatment and research, and campaign for better care and awareness of people with diabetes.


Diabetes.co.uk is the largest diabetes community in Europe. They aim to provide information and resources for people with diabetes and their allies, in order to reduce suffering and provide support for those who have the condition.

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