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Causes of Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes was previously known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes. This form accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder in which the cells do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce it.
Diabetes research scientists do not know why cells begin to no longer use insulin properly. They do, however, know a number of risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include:
  • Being over 45 years of age.
  • Being overweight. Overweight is defined as a having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25 (23 if Asian American; 26 if Pacific Islander). (Click Diabetes Risk Factors for more about BMI or BMI Calculator.)
  • Having high blood pressure (over 140/90 mm/Hg).
  • Having an inactive lifestyle (exercising fewer than three times per week).
  • Having abnormal lipids in the blood (an HDL cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women; triglyceride levels greater than or equal to 250 mg/dL).
  • Having a parent or sibling with diabetes.
  • Being of African-American, American Indian, Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Island heritage.
  • Being a woman with a history of gestational diabetes or having given birth to at least one baby weighing nine pounds or more.
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