Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

Type 2

More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. Unfortunately, about 8 million do not even know they have it. Another 86 million American adults have “prediabetes.” Here are 10 risk factors for type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases.

family tree


In a study of more than 200 adults with type 2 diabetes, about two-thirds reported at least one close relative with diabetes. People whose mother had diabetes were twice as likely to get the disease as those whose father had diabetes—33 percent vs. 17 percent.


Race and ethnicity

Race and ethnic background affect diabetes risk. For example, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans have a greater risk than whites of developing type 2 diabetes, although scientists aren’t sure why this is so.


Approximately 80 percent of individuals with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, and the risk of diabetes rises as a person’s weight increases. Research suggests that carrying more body fat somehow makes cells throughout the body more resistant to insulin.

pinching belly fat

Location of excess fat

Where one’s fat is located within the body also makes a difference. People with excess fat in the abdomen are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than are those with extra weight in the hips and thighs.

Metabolic syndrome

Abdominal obesity is frequently accompanied by insulin resistance, increased blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and elevated triglycerides. This cluster of abnormalities is called the "metabolic syndrome," a risk factor for diabetes


People with a fasting blood glucose reading of 100 to 125 mg/dL—blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes—are considered to have prediabetes. Without lifestyle changes or medication, many will develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

Physical inactivity

If you get little exercise, you have less muscle tissue. Therefore, you use less glucose, and your blood levels of glucose will increase.


As people get older they often exercise less, eat more foods that are high in fats and carbohydrates, and gain weight (especially around the middle).


Certain medications increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in people who are predisposed to the disease. Examples are corticosteroids (commonly used to treat asthma and arthritis) and thiazide diuretics (typically used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure).

Meet Our Writer

HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into in 2018.