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Age of Onset for Type 2 Diabetes: Know Your Risk

Diagnosing diabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 21 million people were diagnosed with diabetes in 2012. The CDC also notes that 90 to 95 percent of cases in adults involve type 2 diabetes. In the past, type 2 diabetes was most prevalent in older adults. But due to widespread poor lifestyle habits, it’s more common in younger people than ever before.

Type 2 diabetes is often preventable. Learn what you can do to prevent or delay its onset, no matter your age.

Average age of diagnosis

Middle-aged and older adults are still at the highest risk for developing type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, there were a total of 1.7 million new total diabetes cases in 2012.

In 2012, adults aged 45 to 64 were the most diagnosed age group for diabetes. New cases of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in people aged 20 years and older were distributed as follows:

  • ages 20 to 44: 371,000 new cases
  • ages 45 to 64: 892,000 new cases
  • age 65 and older: 400,000 new cases

People aged 45 to 64 were also developing diabetes at a faster rate, edging out adults aged 65 and older.

Influx in pediatric patients

Type 2 diabetes used to be only prevalent in adults. It was once called “adult-onset” diabetes. Now, because it is becoming more common in children, it’s simply called “type 2" diabetes. While type 1 diabetes, which is believed to be due to an autoimmune reaction, is more common in children and young adults, type 2 diabetes is rising in incidence, attributed in part to poor lifestyle habits.

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 5,090 people under the age of 20 are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every year.

A 2012 study published in Diabetes Care considered the potential future number of diabetes cases in people under the age of 20. The study found that, at current rates, the number of people under the age of 20 with type 2 diabetes could increase by up to 49 percent by 2050. If the rates of incidence increase, the number of type 2 cases in youth could quadruple.

Risk factors affecting adults

Type 2 diabetes may result from a culmination of a lifestyle and health issues. Specific factors can increase your personal risk, but an unhealthy lifestyle is the broader issue in many cases.

Factors that increase your risk for type 2 diabetes include:

  • being over 45 years of age
  • being from a high-risk ethnicity
  • being overweight or obese
  • leading a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle
  • having vascular disease
  • having high blood pressure
  • having low HDL or high triglyceride levels
  • having a first degree family member with diabetes
  • having a history of gestational diabetes or history of delivering a baby weighing over 9 pounds
  • having polycystic ovarian syndrome or other indicators of insulin resistance
  • having a history of prediabetes

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 85.2 percent of diabetes patients are either overweight or obese. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, losing weight may delay or prevent the disease.

Prediabetes doesn’t mean you will necessarily develop type 2 diabetes. But if you have high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes is possible. That’s why it’s important to take preventive measures.

Certain ethnicities are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Hispanic
  • African-American
  • Asian-American
  • American Indian
  • Pacific Islander

For people under the age of 18, testing for diabetes should occur if the child is greater than the 85th percentile for weight or height, or over 120 percent of the ideal weight for their height, plus two of the following risk factors:

  • having a family history of type 2 diabetes in first- or second-degree relative
  • being of high risk ethnicity
  • having signs of insulin resistance
  • having a mother who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy

Onset may be delayed

Despite the high rates of diagnosis, there are ways the disease may be delayed, and even prevented. Your best options include:

  • regular exercise
  • losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight if you are overweight or obese
  • reducing intake of sugar sweetened beverages

The Diabetes Prevention Program studied the effects of losing weight on developing type 2. They found that losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can slow the development of type 2 diabetes.

Some at-risk people may also delay the onset by taking diabetes medications. It’s important to discuss all of your options with a doctor for the best results. You may not be able to prevent diabetes entirely. But taking steps now may prevent related complications and improve your quality of life. 

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