Based on what we know about type 2 diabetes in the general population, the following factors suggest a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in later life.
The American Diabetes Association has an online risk calculator which may be used to calculate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This may be accessed at www.diabetes.org/risk-test.jsp
Whether diabetes mellitus is preventable has been a vexed question for many years. In recent years, two major studies have shown reasons for optimism.
The Diabetes Prevention Program was a large American study of over 3,000 people at high risk for diabetes. The results showed that diet and exercise which yielded a 5-7% weight loss can delay and even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
People who participated in this research study were overweight and had higher than normal levels of blood glucose, though not diabetes. This is referred to as 'pre-diabetes' in the United States (impaired glucose tolerance). Pre-diabetes and obesity are considered strong risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Because of the high risk among some minority groups, about half of the participants were from ethnic minorities.
The study tested the effects of lifestyle changes (healthy diet and exercise), and the influence of the diabetes drug metformin. The results showed that the group of people who changed their lifestyle, reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. People who took metformin reduced their risk by 31 percent.
If you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, do not despair as there is a lot you can do to reduce your overall risk. The following point summarise the major lifestyle changes you should try to make
Being overweight is a very strong risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Use our online Body Mass Index calculator to assess your current body weight. 4 in every 5 people who have diabetes are overweight.
Pre-diabetes is a term in vogue in the United States, but is not in common usage here in the UK. It means that you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes (and heart disease). Recent evidence which suggests that you can reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by modest weight loss and physical exercise has lead to the 'labelling' of certain people at risk as having 'pre-diabetes'.
Dr Nishan Wijenaike, Consultant Physician
West Suffolk Hospitals Diabetes Service
Revised: October October 2007