Learning about type 2 diabetes

Find out more about health risks for type 2 diabetes and its leading causes

There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, not all of which can be controlled. Let's examine some of these risk factors that can have a profound impact on your health.

Genetics: Some people have a genetic predisposition, or family tendency, to developing type 2 diabetes.

Race: People of certain races, including Indians and Malays, have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to the National Health Survey 2004, the prevalence of diabetes amongst Indians is 15%, Malays 11% and Chinese 7%.

Age: While everyone, including children, is at risk for type 2 diabetes, the risk increases significantly in people older than age 40.

These factors cannot be changed, but the good news is that many of the other risk factors can be. They are:

Excess weight: Weighing more than recommended is one of the major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. While losing weight is a tough proposition for most people, it is one of the most powerful actions you can take.

Minimal physical activity: The human body is designed to move, to be active every day. Physical activity helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and also helps people with the disease control their blood sugar levels. People who stay active and keep their muscles working are more likely to have cells that allow the insulin "key" to unlock the "door" permitting the glucose to enter.

Complications of type 2 diabetes

The human body is not meant to have high levels of circulating insulin. When that happens, the potential health damage can be significant. Let’s take a look at some of the problems.

  • Triglyceride levels increase. Higher-than-normal triglycerides, a type of blood fat or blood lipid, may increase a person's risk of developing atherosclerosis or artery-clogging heart disease.
  • HDL cholesterol, the so-called good cholesterol fraction, drops. Extensive research reveals that people with lower HDL cholesterol levels have an increased risk for atherosclerosis.
  • The body retains sodium, which can lead to fluid retention. Among other things, fluid retention can raise blood pressure. Blood pressure rises, causing stress on the cardiovascular system.
  • Blood-clotting mechanisms become overactive. Excess insulin levels cause the body to produce fibrinogen, one of the body's blood-clotting mechanisms, in too-high levels. Among other problems, high fibrinogen levels can cause the formation of tiny blood clots that can clog arteries and contribute to atherosclerosis.
  • LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol fraction, changes and becomes abnormally dense. Dense LDL cholesterol also increases the risk for atherosclerosis.