Are You at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?

by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate

According to the CDC, more than 100 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Are you one of the millions of people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future? Could you currently have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes? Let’s explore the symptoms and risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

Disease risk dial.

If you have prediabetes

More than 85 million Americans over 18 have prediabetes, according to the ADA. If you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes, you are at risk of joining the 1.5 million Americans newly diagnosed with diabetes every year. If you have a fasting glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dL, and/or a hemoglobin A1c level between 5.7 and 6.4, you are considered prediabetic. Without some form of intervention, you are likely to progress to full Type 2 diabetes over time.

Three smiling women sitting on couch.

If you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes

Genetics and heredity can play a role in developing Type 2 diabetes. You are at increased risk if any of the following family members have the disease:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts/Uncles
  • Siblings
Overweight man with tight shirt.

If you are overweight or obese

If you are overweight or obese, you are at greater risk of having or developing Type 2 diabetes. A particular risk factor is excess belly fat, which gets in the way of your body’s ability to manufacture insulin and handle glucose.

Middle aged couple working on tablet.

If you are older than 45

The risk of Type 2 diabetes starts increasing after the age of 45. After age 65, your risk increases significantly. Official guidelines recommend you get a Type 2 diabetes screening every 3 years after the age of 45.

Multiple races and ethnicities concept.

Your race/ethnicity

You face a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if you are a member of one of the following racial or ethnic groups:

  • African-Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Pacific Islanders
Hand holding cigarette.

If you’re a cigarette smoker

Cigarette smoking increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The number of cigarettes smoked also correlates to your risk, and smoking more than 25 cigarettes per day significantly increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Lazy man asleep with remote in hand on the couch.

If you have an inactive lifestyle

If you aren’t getting much physical activity, you are at greater risk of Type 2 diabetes. You don’t need to be a fitness fanatic, but regular physical activity and exercise improves sensitivity to insulin, processing of glucose, and lowers your Type 2 diabetes risk.

Triglyceride chart.

If you have related risk factors

Other medical risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  • High blood pressure, with readings above 140/ 90 mmHg
  • High triglyceride levels above 250 mg/dL
  • Low HDL (“good” cholesterol) below 35 mg/dL
  • Hypothyroidism (Note: Hypothyroidism is a risk even if diagnosed and treated.)
  • Sleep apnea: breathing issues while sleeping, often associated with snoring
Glass of sugar cubes, unhealthy drink concept.

If you’re eating the wrong things

What you eat – or don’t eat – affects your risk of Type 2 diabetes. The following nutritional issues increase your Type 2 diabetes risk:

Smiling group of women.

Special risks for women

Woman have several gender-specific risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes signs puzzle pieces.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms

If you are prediabetic or have undiagnosed and untreated Type 2 diabetes, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision
  • Numb/tingling hands or feet
  • Dark, velvety skin patches in folds of skin (armpits and neck) called acanthosis nigricans
Female doctor supporting woman.

Should you be screened for Type 2 diabetes?

Currently, guidelines recommend diabetes screening every three years only if you are over the age of 45 and overweight. It's estimated that this screening misses more than half of people at high-risk of developing (or having) Type 2 diabetes.

Experts now recommend screening if you have at least one of the following risk factors:

Blood test vials and forms.

How are prediabetes/Type 2 diabetes screened?

Prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes are diagnosed by blood tests, or in some cases, the oral glucose tolerance test. Here are the criteria for diagnosis:


  • An A1C level of 5.7 to 6.4 percent
  • Fasting glucose level of 100 mg/dL or higher, and/or
  • A 2-hour glucose tolerance level of 140 mg/dL or higher

Type 2 diabetes

  • An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher
  • Fasting glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher on at least 2 occasions, and/or
  • A 2-hour glucose tolerance level of 200 mg/dL or higher
Mary Shomon
Meet Our Writer
Mary Shomon

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.