Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes mostly affecting the older people, but in recent years its occurrence in the younger people, less than thirty years, has been on the rise. It results from the interaction of several environmental factors coupled with genetic predisposition. Simply put, there’s a high probability that this disease will manifest in children of individuals who are diagnosed with it. This is however dependent on lifestyle and some environmental factors.
About 90 percent of the individuals who develop Type 2 diabetes mellitus are obese . This puts obesity among the most important risk factors. The exact mechanism of how obesity leads to diabetes is not well known but a recent study by a group of Harvard researchers have in the recent past tried to explain the mechanism. It’s thought that obesity causes endoplasmic reticulum stress . This basically means that the cells has more lipids and carbohydrates to process than it can handle. It then sends out ‘distress signals’ that culminate to the down regulation of the sensitivity of the insulin receptors. In turn more insulin is required to stimulate the receptors. The pancreas has to work overtime so as to produce more insulin. Eventually the cells become completely resistant to insulin thus a state of high blood sugar.
Another important risk factor in the development of Type 2 diabetes is gestational diabetes. This is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It’s usually fuelled by pregnancy hormones. In actual sense a state of high blood glucose is required by the mother so as to take care of the increased demand for calories during the pregnancy state. A hormone referred to as human placental lactogen is implicated (hLP). After pregnancy the blood sugar level usually goes back to normal. However within the next 5-20 years upto 70 percent of these women develop type 2 diabetes mellitus
Smoking is another risk factor for diabetes. Smokers are 30-40 percent more likely to get diabetes mellitus. It has been implicated in the development of central obesity which has been associated with an increase in the risk of development of this Type 2 diabetes. According to the new surgeon’s general report cigarette smoke is also thought to cause abnormal glucose metabolism and insulin resistance by immunologic mechanisms.
Other important risk factors are; inactivity, age above 45, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, African American and Asian American origin, higher than normal blood sugar levels (prediabetes), hypertension, polycystic ovarian syndrome and history of previous impaired glucose tolerance.
Studies to try and establish why some individuals develop this disease and not others are still on going and new information keeps coming up. The very important thing is to understand that development of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by lifestyle modifications.