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Symptoms and risk factors

Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially.

Risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes

Researchers don't fully understand why some people develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and others don't.4 It's clear that certain factors increase the risk, however, including:


The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.



The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.


Family history

Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.

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Although it's unclear why, people of certain races — including African-Americans, Hispanics, American-Indians and Asian-Americans — are at higher risk.

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Your risk increases as you get older. This may be because you tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as you age. But type 2 diabetes is also increasing among children, adolescents and younger adults.

Age Your risk increases as you get older

Gestational diabetes

If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes later increases. If you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms), you're also at a risk of type 2 diabetes.

Image for Gestational diabetes

Polycystic ovary syndrome

For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome — a common condition characterised by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity — increases the risk of diabetes.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

High blood pressure

Having blood pressure over 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure

Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels

If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can let you know what your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are.

Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels


  1. Watkins P. ABC of Diabetes. 5th ed. London, UK: BMJ Pub. Group; 2003:1, 2, 11.

  2. Saudek MD, Christopher D. Johns Hopkins Guide to Diabetes: For Today and Tomorrow. Johns Hopkins University Press; 2001:410-415.

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