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Diabetes Risk & Complications

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Diabetes Risk Factors

It is important to understand and recognize the risk factors and symptoms for diabetes as many of these symptoms may seem harmless and can go undetected.


Pre-diabetes is a condition that comes before type 2 diabetes. Blood glucose levels are higher than normal but aren’t high enough to be called diabetes. Your physician can use three tests to find out if you have pre-diabetes:

  • The A1C test: A1C test determines how your metabolism is working. A1C levels between 5.7% and 6.4% indicate that you have pre-diabetes
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test: FPG levels of 100mg/dL to 125mg/dL indicates that you have impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): Glucose levels of 140mg/dL to 199mg/dL after an OGTT indicates that you have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and have pre-diabetes

If you have increased A1C, impaired fasting glucose (IFG), or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), then you are considered as having pre-diabetes and are at an increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes.


Research has confirmed that obesity reduces insulin’s ability to control blood glucose. In response, your body starts producing more insulin in an attempt to bring the blood glucose levels to normal. With the passage of time, your body suffers exhaustion of producing excess insulin and is therefore unable to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range, leading to pre-diabetes or diabetes.


The risk of developing diabetes increases, as people grow older. People who are over 40 and overweight are more likely to develop diabetes, although the incidence of type 2 diabetes in adolescents is also growing.

Family History

If your parents or siblings have type 1 or type 2 diabetes then you are at a greater risk of having diabetes.

Race / Ethnicity

African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native, or Asian American, and Pacific Islander are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than Caucasians (whites). According to recent data, 12.6 percent of non-Hispanic blacks are diagnosed with diabetes as compared to other races.

History of Gestational Diabetes

In gestational diabetes, blood glucose levels rise during pregnancy. In case you have gestational diabetes or give birth to a baby weighing > 9 pounds, it increases your risk of having pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes later in life.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common condition in women with possible symptoms, such as irregular periods, acne, excessive facial hair, and inability to get pregnant. According to recent data, women with PCOS show the signs of insulin resistance, which leads to increase in blood glucose levels. Screening for diabetes is recommended by age 30 in women who have PCOS.


  • Inactive lifestyle: Being physically active less than three times per week increases your risk of diabetes. Physical activities increases your metabolism, your body cells uses more glucose as they require more glucose for energy and therefore, helps in reversing pre-diabetes and delaying type 2 diabetes
  • Smoking: Smoking increases your risk of diabetes to a great extent as several research studies indicate that nicotine (an active component in cigarettes) can reduce insulin production and negatively affect insulin action, suggesting that nicotine could be a cause for development of insulin resistance. Additionally, nicotine is believed to impact pancreatic beta-cells loss (cells responsible for producing insulin)

Patients with Hypertension, Low HDL, and High TG

If you are having high blood pressure, i.e.>140/90, it means your heart is working really very hard to pump blood throughout the body. Hypertension, along with diabetes increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Additionally, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides further increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Last Reviewed on: July 26, 2014

Reviewed By: Dr. Kanchan Anand, MD (Nephrology and Internal Medicine)

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