Who gets Type 2 Diabetes?

Who gets Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is condition where the body cannot process glucose effectively. It is characterized by elevated blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) and inability to utilize insulin. This leads to a viscous cycle because hyperglycemia damages the pancreas causing further insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. It is a major public health problem which is growing. This article will review risk factors for developing the problem.

People who develop Type 2 diabetes have certain factors in common. Epidemiologic studies are able to identify these commonalities and they are called risk factors. Risk factors for diabetes include age, being overweight, family history and certain ethnic/racial groups. Individuals with other medical conditions such as hypertension and elevated lipids are at a greater risk of developing diabetes. Women are at higher risk than men. There are many other factors such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and even birth weight that appear to play a role in the development of this problem.

The older you become, the greater your risk of developing diabetes and this is appreciated after the age of 45. Over 39% of people with T2DM have at least one parent with diabetes and in identical twins 90% will develop T2DM if their twin has it. T2DM is 2-6 times more prevalent in African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans than in White Americans. Those with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25 are at higher risk. Morbidly obese individuals (BMI more than 40) with T2DM who lose a significant amount of weight can be cured of this condition. This is best illustrated in the bariatric surgery population where the vast majority of individuals no longer require treatment of their diabetes after the surgery.

Most people who develop Type 2 diabetes have a genetic predisposition. There appears to be a defect in the genes involved in insulin secretion. The defects are likely multiple and some are located at the level of insulin synthesis while others are in the development of the beta cells (cells that make insulin). This supports family history as a risk factor for the disease.

Not every person with risk factors develop diabetes. Environmental factors play a role in triggering the onset of the disease. Lifestyle and diet are the major ones. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by consuming an appropriate diet and regular exercise can ward off the development of T2DM in those at risk.

Diabetes contributes to significant medical problems which can lead to premature death. Long term, uncontrolled diabetes causes vascular damage over time. This damage can manifest itself as circulatory problems causing leg pain especially with activity. This is called claudication. This poor circulation can also lead to foot ulcers and if unchecked can lead to a need for amputation. The same type of vascular damage can cause a heart attack or stroke which could result in immediate death or disability. The tissue of the kidneys can be damaged resulting in renal failure over time and the need for dialysis. The vessels in the eye are also affected causing retinopathy which can lead to a decrease in vision and even loss of sight.

The consequences of diabetes are great and it is important for you to know if you are at risk. There is much that can be done to prevent T2DM. Regular exercise, weight management and an appropriate diet are the key. It requires discipline to follow these regimens however the payoff is certainly worth it.

I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:

Live healthy, live well and live long!

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