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Causes of type 2 diabetes

Insulin is a hormone that is needed to control the amount of glucose, a type of sugar, in your blood. When you eat, your digestive system breaks down your food to release the nutrients from it. These nutrients, including glucose, enter your bloodstream. Normally, insulin is produced by your pancreas to move the glucose from your blood into your cells, where it is broken down to produce energy.

Type 2 diabetes occurs because your body cannot produce enough insulin or because the cells in your body do not react properly to insulin.


Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not fully understood, although there are many factors that make developing the condition more likely. You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if:


Genetic factors

You are more likely to get type 2 diabetes if you have a close relative, such as a parent, brother or sister, who has it. The closer the relative, the greater the risk.


Ethnic origin

People of South Asian, African, African-Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is up to six times more common in South Asian communities than in the general UK population and three times more common among people of African and African-Caribbean origin.

People of African-Caribbean or South Asian origin are also more likely to develop complications of diabetes, such as heart disease, at a younger age than the rest of the population.


Being overweight or obese

If you are overweight or obese, you are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fat around your abdomen (belly), sometimes called active fat, puts you at greater risk of type 2 diabetes than fat elsewhere. This is because it releases chemicals that can upset the cardiovascular and metabolic systems of the body. This can put you at higher risk of a number of conditions including heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

A quick way to assess your diabetes risk is to measure your waist. This is a measure of abdominal obesity, a particularly high-risk form of obesity. When you have excess weight around your middle, you are at high risk of developing diabetes.

Women are thought to be at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they have a waist size of 31.5 inches (80cm) or over. Men are thought to be at a higher risk if they are Asian and their waist is 35 inches (90cm) or over, or if they are white or black with a waist size of 37 inches (94cm) or over.

If you lose about 5% of your body weight and take regular exercise, you could reduce your risk of getting diabetes by over 50%.


Age

Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes also increases as you get older. This may be because people usually gain weight and exercise less as they get older.

You are considered to be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you are over 40 years of age and white, or over 25 years of age and black, Asian or from a minority ethnic group. However, some children as young as seven are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.


Other factors

You also have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you have either impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). These conditions are sometimes also known as pre-diabetes and mean that your blood glucose level is higher than usual, but not high enough to cause diabetes. IFG and IGT can both progress to type 2 diabetes if you do not take steps to prevent it.


Women who experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also at higher risk of developing diabetes in later life.


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Source NHS Choices