Type 1 Diabetes

Currently, risk factors for type 1 diabetes are not fully understood. Researchers have discovered that having a family member (parent, sibling) with type 1 diabetes slightly increases your risk, but further research is still being done. Scientists also believe the following may increase your risk for developing type 1 diabetes:

  • Family history: Anyone with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition.
  • Age: Although type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, it appears at two noticeable peaks. The first peak occurs in children between 4 and 7 years old, and the second is in children between 10 and 14 years old
  • Genetics: The presence of certain genes indicates an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Geography: The incidence of type 1 diabetes tends to increase as you travel away from the equator. People living in Finland and Sardinia have the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes — about two to three times higher than rates in the United States and 400 times the incidence among people living in Venezuela.

Environmental factors and exposure to some viral infections have also been linked to the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Risk factors for diabetes

  • I am over the age of 40
  • I am a man
  • I have a family member (parent or sibling) with diabetes
  • I am a member of a high-risk population (Aboriginal, Hispanic, South East Asian, Asian, or African descent)
  • I am a smoker
  • I am physically inactive
  • I have given birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds at birth
  • I have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • I have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes
  • I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure
  • I have high levels of cholesterol or other fats in my blood
  • I am overweight, especially if you carry your weight on your abdomen and around your waist
  • I have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • I have been diagnosed with Acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin)
  • I have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder: schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder
  • I have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea
  • I have been prescribed glucocorticoid medication by my doctor

If any of the above risk factors for diabetes apply to you, you might be at risk. However, only your doctor can determine if you have diabetes or prediabetes.

If you think you may be at risk for diabetes complete the Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire (CANRISK). The earlier you are diagnosed, the sooner you can take action to protect your health. Please speak with your family doctor if you are concerned about your risk for developing diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Every year in Canada up to twenty percent of women develop gestational diabetes. After having gestational diabetes 30% of women develop type 2 diabetes within 15 years after giving birth.

Risk Factors for Developing Gestational Diabetes

  • I am a woman over the age of 25
  • I have been diagnosed with prediabetes
  • I have a family member (parent or sibling) with diabetes
  • I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • I have given birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds at birth
  • I was overweight before my pregnancy
  • I am a member of a high-risk population (Aboriginal, Hispanic, South East Asian, Asian, or African descent)

If any of the above risk factors for diabetes apply to you, you might be at risk. However, only your doctor can determine if you have gestational diabetes.

It is important to be screened for type 2 diabetes after you have had gestational diabetes to ensure you have healthy future pregnancies, and that you avoid the complications of diabetes. You should get tested for type 2 diabetes:

  • 6 weeks – 6 months after you give birth have an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
  • Before planning another pregnancy
  • Every 3 years (or more frequently depending on other risk factors you may have for diabetes)

Lower Your Risk!

If you are at risk for developing diabetes there are steps you can take to lower your risk.

Healthy Eating

Following a healthy balanced diet can help lower your risk for diabetes by promoting weight loss and helping to manage your cholesterol levels. If you would like help with following a healthy diet you can see a Registered Dietitian to help you get on the right path. You can find a dietitian near you by visiting the College of Dietitians of Alberta website.

Get Active

Physical activity can help lower your blood sugar levels, improve your cholesterol and promote weight loss. Small changes such as going for a walk after dinner are an easy place to start. For more information on getting active visit the CDA website

Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking can lower your risk for diabetes by improving your heart health. If you would like support with quitting smoking you can talk with your family doctor or local pharmacist. For more information visit Alberta Quits.