If you don’t have it, you may be confused about what exactly diabetes is and what can cause it. Generally, diabetes is a condition where the body has chronically high levels of sugar in the blood.
There are two types of diabetes: type 1, which is an immune disease diagnosed earlier in life, and type 2, which develops in adults and is usually a result of modifiable risk factors.
But what exactly increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes? Here are 10 things you might not know can increase your risk.
Smoking can increase your chances of developing diabetes.
Add this to Healthline’s list of adverse effects of smoking: smoking can make your body more resistant to insulin (the hormone which keeps blood sugar levels normal), according to studies by Ronnemaa and Gunton and colleagues. Even if you don’t have diabetes already, smoking can reduce blood sugar control.
For helpful resources and information on quitting smoking, check out the National Institutes of Health SmokeFree website.
Chronic use of some recreational drugs can increase diabetes risk.
The Global Diabetes Community notes that certain stimulant drugs can increase your blood sugar. If these drugs are consumed on a regular basis, the resulting high blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes.
Amphetamines (“speed”/amphetamine, meth/methamphetamine), MDxx compounds (ecstasy/molly/MDMA), and ADHD drugs used as concentration aids (Adderal/”Addy”/Vyvanse) can all increase blood sugar levels and put you at risk.
Some medications can affect your risk.
Steroids, anti-ADHD medications, anti-psychotics, some asthma medications, and other drugs may increase blood sugar, according to GlobalRPH. Generally, the benefits of these medications to treat health conditions outweigh their effects on blood sugar, so speak with your doctor and pharmacist for more information.
Chronic stress can put you at a higher risk.
Sustained periods of emotional or physical stress can cause blood sugar levels to rise. When your body undergoes a stress response, sugar is released into the blood to help supply adequate energy where it’s needed, according to the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of San Francisco.
“Stress may make your blood sugar go up and become more difficult to control,” the organisation notes. When this stress is chronic, your risk for diabetes can be higher.
Your diet can influence your risk.
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise. Long periods of eating foods high in sugar, as well as experiencing significant weight gain, can increase your risk for diabetes.
The 2018 American Diabetes Association (ADA) Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes highlights “steady consumption of inexpensive carbohydrate-rich processed foods,” “binge eating,” and food insecurity (“unreliable availability of nutritious food”) as risk factors for increased blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes.
Not getting enough exercise puts you at risk for diabetes.
The ADA warns in their statement on Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes that significant periods of sedentary time can result in “poorer [blood sugar] control.” Even light to moderate aerobic exercise “enhances insulin action,” better-controlling blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours.
The type of exercise you do might matter, too. According to the ADA, “combining endurance exercise with resistance exercise may provide greater [blood sugar] improvements, and [high-intensity interval training] may be superior to continuous aerobic training in adults with diabetes.”
High cholesterol levels can change your diabetes risk.
High levels of “bad” cholesterol (specifically, triglycerides) is a risk factor for poor blood sugar control, according to the ADA. In addition, low levels of “good” cholesterol (known as high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) may increase your risk for diabetes, though newer studies provide conflicting results.
Certain types of diabetes are associated with pregnancy.
Pregnancy can result in the development of gestational diabetes (GD), a special type of diabetes induced by the changes associated with being pregnant. Most cases of GD resolve by themselves after delivery, but GD can be a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes later in life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “gestational diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms.” Don’t worry- tests for the condition are usually part of routine screening during early prenatal visits with your doctor.
Ignoring the symptoms of pre-diabetes can lead to a diabetes diagnosis.
The 2018 Standards for Care in Diabetes defines pre-diabetes as “the term used for individuals whose glucose levels do not meet the criteria for diabetes but are too high to be considered normal.”
Although the Mayo Clinic specifies that prediabetes may lack symptoms, in some cases pre-diabetic people may experience increased urination, increased thirst, and velvety brown patches on the skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your doctor right away.
Some factors which you can’t change increase your risk for diabetes.
Although there is a lot you can do to lower your diabetes risk, a few things increase our risk from birth. Non-Caucasian ethnicity, male sex, genetic factors, a family history of diabetes, and certain medical conditions (like polycystic ovarian syndrome) can increase your baseline risk for diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Make sure to talk to your doctor to discuss your risk factors if you have questions.
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