Diabetes Risk Factors – Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational

What Are Risk Factors?

Simply put, a risk factor (sometimes called a determinant) is an environmental cause or internal change in the body that makes someone more prone to diseases or infections. For instance, smoking and drinking alcohol are risk factors for various cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), and hypertension is a Type 2 diabetes risk factor. There may be multiple risk factors pertaining to a particular condition or multiple conditions that arise from a common risk factor

Physicians and other diagnosticians use information derived from these variables in order to piece together the nature (i.e. diagnosis) and the extent or outcome (i.e. prognosis) of a particular ailment. Proper knowledge of these factors plays a pivotal role in preventing diseases as well as in deciding the suitable course of medical action.

It is important to understand that risk factors denote correlation and not necessarily causation. What that means is that a particular factor may be related to the likelihood of contracting a disease, however, it would not guarantee to cause the disease every time. In general, the risk factors determined for various conditions are assumed to make it highly likely to contract the condition but are not set in stone. This is also apparent from the fact that multiple ailments may share a common risk factor like smoking for various cancers, CVDs, obesity, etc.

Diabetes Mellitus and Risk factors of diabetes mellitus

Notorious for afflicting people worldwide, diabetes mellitus comprises a group of metabolic disorders with a characteristic symptom – high blood sugar levels over a long span of time. The “sugar” refers to glucose which is the body’s natural energy preference. Due to the disbalance of blood glucose concentration, patients experience a range of problems, including excessive thirst and urination, persistent weakness and so on – collectively called symptoms of the condition.

Diabetes by itself is rarely fatal if managed properly, but the complications that arise from it may be. Mismanaged diabetes, either due to lack of proper knowledge of the condition or about various diabetes risk factors, can lead to strokes (reduced blood supply to the brain), infarctions (reduced blood supply to body tissue), nerve damage, comas and even death. Therefore it is important to look out for early signs of the condition in order to mitigate any further damage.

However, to completely understand what qualifies as a diabetes risk factor, we must first delve deeper into the three major forms of diabetes and their associated risks:

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile diabetes, this form of diabetes is a result of decreased insulin concentration due to lack of production from the pancreas. A class of secretory cells called beta cells in the pancreas are responsible for insulin secretion, which in this condition are reduced in number and hence cannot produce the required amount of insulin. The loss of these beta cells may be due to environmental factors but typically have a genetic component to it due to its autoimmune nature.

Type 1 diabetes risk factors include:

  • Family history of Type 1 diabetes.    
  • Age of the patient (typically presents in younger patients).    
  • Genetic predisposition (the presence of dysfunction of specific genes).    
  • The geographical location (not well understood)

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Sometimes referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes, this form of diabetes commonly presents with insulin resistance – a condition in which the target cells for insulin fail to recognise the hormone and function properly. This may also result in an eventual decrease in insulin production as the disease progresses.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors include:

  • Family history of Type 2 diabetes.    
  • Patient history of gestational diabetes (in the case of women).    
  • Age of the patient (typically presents in older patients).
  • Obesity (high BMI)
  • Unhealthy lifestyle (smoking habits, excessive drinking etc.)
  • Lack of regular exercise or generally sedentary lifestyle.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Unusually elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Previous pregnancy resulting in a child with macrosomia (high birth weight).    
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).    
  • Ethnicity (typically affecting mixed-race Americans and Pacific Islanders).

Gestational Diabetes

This is a comparatively rarer form of diabetes occurring in pregnant women without an apparent history of diabetes. This generally results in few symptoms, however, it tends to increase the risk for other complications such as pre-eclampsia, mood abnormalities etc.

Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:   

  • PCOS    
  • Patient history of pre-diabetes or impaired fasting glycaemia.    
  • Family history of Type 2 diabetes in immediate relatives.    
  • Age of the mother (particularly for women over 35 years).    
  • Obesity (high BMI)   
  • Unhealthy lifestyle (smoking habits, excessive drinking etc.)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Unusually elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Lack of regular exercise or generally sedentary lifestyle.
  • Previous pregnancy resulting in a child with macrosomia.    
  • Polymorphisms (genetic mutations).
  • Ethnicity (typically affecting mixed-race Americans and Pacific Islanders).

In Conclusion

Even with all the diabetes risk factors listed out, it is important to keep away from them in order to stay safe from the disease. Although diabetes risk factors aren’t a fool-proof way to prevent diabetes, it sure is worth the time trying to avoid them than trying to test that theory. So make sure to book a free consultation with Twin Health’s leading specialists to learn more and gain access to our state-of-the-art treatments personalised to your needs. We specialise in directed nutrition and therapy to make sure you don’t have to suffer through any of the conditions listed above again!

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