Diabetes Type 2: Risk Factors

Diabetes  is a chronic condition which affects how the body turns food into energy. Normally, when food is consumed, it is converted into a sugar called glucose and the hormone insulin is released to turn this blood sugar into energy1.

In diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin (type 1) or the insulin does not function normally (type 2). As a result, diabetes is commonly associated with elevated blood sugar levels which lead to a variety of abnormal functions in the body. If left untreated, it can lead to vision loss, dizziness, stroke, kidney disease and nervous system problems.

There are many types of diabetes but the most common one is type 2 which tends to affect people around the age of 45. According to idf.org in 2019, around 465 million people were affected with type 2 diabetes and this number is predicted to hit 700 million by the year 20452. Since diabetes type 2 is considered a lifestyle disease, it has certain key risk factors that increase the chances of developing it.


Healthy nutrition is key for monitoring diabetes and preventing its onset. A recommended diet for prevention of diabetes is filled with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated. This is necessary to prevent excessive weight gain and also to provide sufficient nutrients for physiological functions to work properly. Correctly sized portions and regular meal times will also help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Physical Activity  

An inactive and sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for diabetes. This kind of lifestyle is very easy to fall into, and particularly risky for people who have stressful jobs or familial diabetes. Regular physical activity in the form of brisk walking, yoga or stretching for thirty minutes a day has shown to reduce diabetes risk and associated cardiovascular problems3.


Smoking is widely acknowledged as a key trigger for diabetes: in fact, smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes4. Smoking increases risk because nicotine can cause hardening and constriction of blood vessels resulting in blood circulation problems.

Nicotine has also been associated with reduced insulin production and insulin is necessary for regulation of glucose level in blood. Smoking should be given up as soon as possible as there is hope for reversing diabetes type 2 symptoms if they are noticed early enough. Studies have found insulin to become more effective at lowering blood sugar levels just eight weeks after you quit smoking.


The weight gain associated with alcohol results in cells becoming unresponsive to insulin and leads to blood glucose levels rising uncontrollably. There are guidelines for drinking alcohol: 14 units (equivalent of 6 glasses of wine) a week spread over at least 3 days are recommended to minimise risk of developing type 2 diabetes5.


Dehydration can cause fatigue which can lead to poorer lifestyle choices; as well as blood thickening and improper circulation which increase severity of diabetic symptoms. Drinking enough water is essential for maintaining the right volume of blood and concentration of blood glucose.


Sleep disturbances can negatively affect circadian rhythm (the body's 24 hour biological clock) and negatively affects the endocrine system. This results in improper insulin and other digestive hormone production that often lead to elevated weight. Sleep problems also lead to fatigue which brings about subsequent poor lifestyle choices that put you at higher risk of diabetes.


Obesity (BMI over 30) is a number one risk factor for diabetes type 2. In fact it accounts for 80-85% of the risk of developing the condition, and obese indivuduals are 80 times more likely to have diabetes than an invidual with a BMI under 226.

Over-consumption of food makes cells in your body less receptive to insulin over time. This is known as insulin resistance and means your body struggles to naturally get your blood sugar levels down to a healthy range after eating.

Obesity can also cause additional problems related to high levels of blood cholesterol (unhealthy fat) which are correlated with cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure as it blocks blood vessels. These can further increase your likelihood of developing diabetes type 2.

Sex Assigned at Birth  

Studies have shown that people assigned the male sex at birth are more likely to get diabetes7. This is because of positional obesity that puts them at a higher risk of contracting insulin resistance. However, those assigned female at birth tend to suffer more severe complications from the condition and are more susceptible to certain risk factors, in particular alcohol consumption.


There are several risk factors associated with diabetes, and since many are lifestyle related there are many ways you can prevent the disease. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet, following an active lifestyle and limiting stress, alcohol and smoking minimise risk of developing diabetes type 2. Even a small change can make a huge difference.


  1. What is Diabetes? [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 [cited 12 December 2021]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html
  2. https://idf.org
  3. Colberg S, Sigal R, Yardley J, Riddell M, Dunstan D, Dempsey P et al. Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(11):2065-2079.
  4. Cigarette Smoking: A Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2021 [cited 12 December 2021]. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-effects-tobacco-use/cigarette-smoking-risk-factor-type-2-diabetes#references
  5. Alcohol units [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 12 December 2021]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units/
  6. Diabetes and Obesity [Internet]. Diabetes.co.uk. 2021 [cited 12 December 2021]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-obesity.html
  7. Simmons H. Diabetes in Men versus Women [Internet]. News-Medical.net. 2021 [cited 12 December 2021]. Available from: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Diabetes-in-Men-versus-Women.aspx

Aarthi Narayan

Master of Science (M.S.), Biological science, University of Illinois Chicago

Scientist with 10+ years of strong industry, academic experience in Molecular biology, Tissue culture, Protein purification techniques. Mid-level experience in Diagnostics and start-ups. Excellent at completing large scale projects and experiments with minimal supervision in a timely and efficient manner.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818