According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. The CDC also notes that 90 to 95 percent of cases 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.

Middle-aged and older adults are still at the highest risk for developing type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC’s 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report, there were around 1.5 million new total diabetes cases among adults in 2015.

In 2015, 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 18 years and older were distributed as follows:

  • ages 18 to 44: 355,000 new cases
  • ages 45 to 64: 809,000 new cases
  • age 65 and older: 366,000 new cases

Type 2 diabetes used to be prevalent only in adults and was once called “adult-onset” diabetes. Now that it’s becoming more common in children, it’s simply called “type 2” diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is more common in children and young adults, and it’s believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction. However, type 2 diabetes is rising in incidence, attributed in part to poor lifestyle habits.

According to the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, 5,300 people from ages 10 to 19 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 2011 and 2012.

A 2012 study published in the ADA Journal 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.

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

Fixed risk factors

Fixed risk factors, which you can’t change, include:

  • being over 45 years of age
  • being of Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Latino, or African descent
  • having a first-degree family member with diabetes

Related health conditions

Some health conditions are associated with type 2 diabetes. Risk factors include having:

Prediabetes

Having a history of prediabetes is an important risk factor. Prediabetes doesn’t mean you’ll 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.

Factors related to lifestyle

Leading a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle can increase your chances of developing diabetes. So can being overweight or obese.

The CDC estimates that 87.5 percent of adults with diabetes are either overweight or obese. Losing weight may delay or prevent the disease.

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. They should also have one of the following risk factors:

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

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases studied the effects of losing weight on developing type 2 diabetes. 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.