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Diabetes in Adults

Who Gets Diabetes?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 17:59

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Type 2 diabetes - the type that mostly affects adults - affects all types of people. However, there are factors that can put you at higher risk for developing the condition:

  • Being overweight (body mass index of 25+)
  • Carrying fat around the waist and stomach
  • Being sedentary
  • Being more than 45 years old (being over 65 increases risk even further)
  • Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Having had gestational diabetes (a mild glucose abnormality first noted in pregnancy which can cause difficulties with delivery and in the newborn after birth) or having a baby that weighed 9 lbs or more
  • Being of African-American, Latino, Asian-American, or Native American descent
  • Having a low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level (less than 35)
  • Having a high triglyceride level (250 or above)
  • Having high blood pressure (140/90 mm/Hg or higher)

Type 2 diabetes used to be quite rare before middle age, but now affects more and more young people who are overweight. Being overweight, even as a child or teenager, is a significant risk factor for developing diabetes as an adult.

About Impaired Glucose Tolerance

A condition called impaired glucose tolerance, a state between "normal" and "diabetes," could indicate that a person may get diabetes later. Impaired glucose tolerance also may put people at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

Impaired glucose tolerance shows up on tests as a slightly elevated blood sugar level that is not high enough to be called diabetes. A doctor checks for this condition using an oral glucose tolerance test.

It is estimated that 20 million people in the U.S. have impaired glucose tolerance, including many children. Finding out about impaired glucose tolerance early might allow a person to make healthy lifestyle changes that will help them avoid getting diabetes or having other health problems later in life.

Another situation that puts a person at increased risk for getting diabetes later and for heart disease and stroke is impaired fasting glucose. In this condition, the fasting glucose level is higher than normal but less than necessary to diagnose diabetes.

Diabetes in Adults