Causes and Risk Factors of Type 2 Diabetes

Many of the causes of type 2 diabetes are related to an unhealthy lifestyle and sedentary lifestyle. However, certain genetic factors must be present for the disease to develop. We'll explain it to you below.
Causes and Risk Factors of Type 2 Diabetes

Written by Luis Rodolfo Rojas Gonzalez, 13 June, 2021

Last update: 13 June, 2021

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease where the body’s insulin production doesn’t work properly, leading to high blood glucose levels. This pathology appears in adulthood and is closely related to a person’s lifestyle. Do you want to know what the causes and risk factors of type 2 diabetes are? Keep reading!

Under normal conditions, the hormone in charge of introducing glucose into the cells in order for it to be used as energy is insulin. Type 2 diabetes appears when the pancreas is unable to synthesize a sufficient amount of insulin or when the tissues have developed resistance to it.

The pathology in question is a chronic disease that affects multiple organs, in fact, it’s estimated that 75% of patients die from the development of coronary artery disease. In this sense, it is important to know the causes and risk factors of this type of diabetes in order to prevent its appearance.

Causes of type 2 diabetes

The most important causes and risk factors for type 2 diabetes are related to people’s lifestyles. In this way, being overweight and obese, a sedentary lifestyle and an inadequate diet can be determining factors for developing the disease.

In addition, genes play a fundamental role in its appearance, as it’s also a hereditary disease.

Excess weight and obesity

Causes and risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight and obese
Being overweight and obese increase the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including diabetes mellitus.

Both being overweight and obese are the most important factors that influence the development of type 2 diabetes. People with these conditions have a higher percentage of fat than usual, which interferes with glucose metabolism and leads to diabetes.

The main source of energy for the body is glucose, although there are other substances capable of replacing it. In this sense, the muscles of obese people use fat as their first source of energy instead of glucose. This raises blood glucose, so the pancreas will synthesize a greater amount of insulin in order to keep the levels at normal values.

The pancreas will continue to synthesize excess amounts of insulin as blood sugar remains high, which can lead to the tissues developing resistance to the hormone. Pancreatic cells can also shrink or atrophy, leading to insufficient insulin production.

Both insulin resistance and pancreatic cell atrophy will generate an imbalance in glucose metabolism, leading to a state of hyperglycemia and the development of type 2 diabetes. Importantly, sugar levels can improve just by losing a small percentage of body weight.

Sedentary lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle is associated with multiple endocrine and metabolic diseases, which is why it’s one of the causes and risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes. This is due to the close relationship between a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, and, in addition, the increase in inflammatory factors that can damage the pancreas.

On the other hand, a lot of research has linked having a sedentary job with insulin resistance and the development of diabetes. Moderate physical activity stimulates the insulin receptors located in the muscles. This action generates a greater influx of glucose into the cells, and therefore, a decrease in glycemia.

Improper diet

A balanced and healthy diet is essential to prevent the appearance of multiple diseases. In this sense, a diet rich in carbohydrates and processed foods has been associated with the appearance of type 2 diabetes.

The constant consumption of certain foods such as saturated fat predisposes you to be overweight or obese, thus increasing the risk of developing diabetes.

Genetic factors

Type 2 diabetes is a multifactorial inherited disease, so environmental and genetic factors must be present for its development. The necessary environmental factors are those described previously, that is, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and an inadequate diet.

On the other hand, studies establish that one of the genetic alterations most associated with the disease is a mutation in the transcription factor 7-like gene 2 (TCF7L2). This gene is responsible for coding the proteins involved in insulin secretion. Other genes associated with the development of type 2 diabetes are the following:

  • PPARG
  • KNCJ11
  • HMGA1
  • A3243G

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

Causes and risk factors for type 2 diabetes include race and history
Some people are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes based on their gender, race, or history.

In addition to the causes already described, certain risk factors increase the probability of suffering from type 2 diabetes. Many of them are related to the biological characteristics of people, which intervene in the metabolism of insulin in one way or another.

These factors cannot be modified, since they are related to genetics and the following stand out:

  • Being Afro-descendant or Latino
  • Being over 45 years old
  • Having a family history with some type of diabetes
  • Having had gestational diabetes at some point in their life
  • Being a woman

In addition, other risk factors are related to lifestyle, so they can be modified with certain changes.

One of the most important factors is uncontrolled high blood pressure, since this pathology can damage pancreatic cells and affect insulin production. Other modifiable risk factors are the following:

  • Have high cholesterol levels
  • Sitting for many hours a day
  • Present acanthosis nigricans, that is, areas of dark, thick and velvety skin on the neck or armpits
  • Psychiatric pathologies such as depression
  • Other endocrine diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome

When to see the doctor?

The best thing is to consult a specialist on suspecting you may have the first symptoms of the disease, in order to avoid its development. In this sense, there are certain warning signs that people should know how to identify, acanthosis nigricans being one of the most important.

The changes in the skin of the neck or armpits described above are an unequivocal sign of insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. The increased levels of glucose in the blood will generate an abnormal growth of the cells located in the skin folds, and even velvety-looking warts may appear.

There are cases where blood glucose levels can be elevated without reaching diagnostic figures for type 2 diabetes. This condition is known as prediabetes and should be a warning sign to consult a doctor, since the progression from prediabetes to diabetes type 2 can be slowed down and thus prevent the disease.

Prevention of type 2 diabetes is essential

Most of the causes and risk factors for type 2 diabetes are related to lifestyle, with being overweight and obesity among the most important. Both conditions intervene with the metabolism of glucose, generating an increase in the levels of this substance in the blood.

Despite the severity of this pathology, it’s possible to prevent its appearance. Fortunately, you only need to make certain lifestyle changes like losing excess weight and increasing physical activity to significantly reduce your risk. Similarly, it’s essential to seek medical assistance when some of the warning signs mentioned above are noticed.

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