What are the Diabetes Risk Factors?

Are you at risk for diabetes? Check out this list of risk factors for diabetes type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes on HealthyPlace.

Are you at risk of developing diabetes? The average American has a 1 in 100 chance (1 percent) of developing type 1 diabetes by age 70 years. The chances of getting type 2 diabetes are at 1 in 9 (11 percent). That’s why understanding diabetes risk factors is an important part of avoiding this serious illness.

Diabetes defined is a group of illnesses in which the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin efficiently. In either case, glucose (sugar that is the product of the digestion of carbohydrates) stays in the bloodstream rather than being led by insulin into the body’s cells. The result is hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, and there are numerous health dangers accompanying it. Certain diabetes risk factors indicate that someone’s chances of diabetes are higher than average.  

Diabetes is categorized by type, and diabetes risk factors differ accordingly. The main types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes (sometimes called GDM for gestational diabetes mellitus). Each one is unique and comes with its own set of risk factors, although there is overlap between some of the types.

Here’s a look at diabetes risk factors by type.

Risk Factors of Diabetes Type 1

In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t make insulin or makes such a small amount that there’s not enough to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. Type 1 usually begins in childhood or early adulthood; however, it can develop at any age ("What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in a Child?").

Unfortunately, risk factors of diabetes type 1 are poorly understood. Medical professionals and health researchers have identified a few factors that are involved in the onset of type 1 diabetes:

  • Genetic components
  • Environmental elements
  • Autoimmune aspects

While researchers are working to pinpoint risk factors of type 1 diabetes, it’s currently impossible to predict who will develop this disease and what puts people at increased risk.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors and Risk Factors for Prediabetes

Unlike type 1, the diabetes risk factors type 2 are well understood by the medical community. Because one-third of adults in the United States is in jeopardy of this illness, and because type 2 is preventable, knowing the risk factors is essential.

Are you or a loved one at risk? Check out this list of type 2 diabetes risk factors to determine how many you have:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Body mass index (BMI) higher than the normal range
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor nutrition and other eating habits (overeating, eating while watching television or on the run)
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of diabetes (parents, siblings with diabetes)
  • Age (while even children can develop type 2, the risk increases over the age of 40)
  • Ethnicity (people of African, Latino, Asian, Pacific Island, or Native descent are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes)
  • Prior gestational diabetes

There is also a condition known as prediabetes. Prediabetes means that blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. The prediabetes risk factors are the same as those for type 2. Having prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy and disappears within approximately six weeks after delivery. Gestational diabetes risk factors are similar to those for type 2 and prediabetes and include:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Smoking
  • High blood glucose
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor nutrition and consumption of unhealthy food and drinks
  • Over age 25
  • Family history
  • Ethnicity (the same ethnic groups at higher risk for type 2 are also at increased risk for gestational diabetes)

Knowing if you have the risk factors for diabetes can help you know if you or a loved one could be in danger of developing diabetes ("Do I Have Diabetes? Here's How to Tell "). This allows you to become less susceptible to the disease and even prevent it by avoiding the risk factors for diabetes.

If you think you may be at risk for diabetes, talk to your doctor and work with him or her to develop a health plan. Make lifestyle changes that eliminate the risk factors and replace them with a life of wellness.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2022, January 4). What are the Diabetes Risk Factors?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Last Updated: January 12, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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