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Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Your chances of developing type 2 diabetes depend on a combination of risk factors. Although you can’t change risk factors related to family history, age, race, or ethnicity, you may be able to avoid some risk factors by maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active.1

Read about risk factors for type 2 diabetes below, and see which ones apply to you. Acting on the factors you can change may help delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

Black grandfather and grandson playing American football.Diabetes type 2 can affect people at any age.

You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you1

  • are overweight or have obesity.
  • are age 35 or older. Children and teens can also develop type 2 diabetes, but the risk increases as a person gets older.
  • have a family history of diabetes.
  • are African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander.
  • are not physically active, because of physical limitations, a sedentary lifestyle, or a job that requires sitting for long periods of time.
  • have prediabetes.
  • have a history of gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.

Children and teens are also at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if, in addition to the previous risk factors, they were born with a low birth weight or if their parent had gestational diabetes while pregnant with the child.1

You are encouraged to talk with a doctor about any of the health conditions listed above that may require medical treatment. Managing health problems may help reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.2 Also, ask your doctor about any medicines you or your child take that might increase your risk. You can also take the Diabetes Risk Test to learn more about your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Does your weight put you at risk for type 2 diabetes?

If you have overweight or obesity, you may be able to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing weight and being more physically active.1

To see if your weight may put you at risk for type 2 diabetes, learn your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

Body mass index

Your BMI can help you tell if you are at a healthy weight or have overweight or obesity.

Most adults with a BMI of 25 or higher are overweight and have a higher risk of developing
type 2 diabetes.2 Asian Americans are overweight if their BMI is 23 or higher,1 while Pacific Islanders are overweight if their BMI is 26 or higher.3,4,5

If you are age 20 or older, use the BMI calculator for adults to learn your body mass index.

You can use a different BMI calculator for children or teens ages 2–19 years. This calculator uses BMI, sex, and age to estimate if a child or teen has overweight or obesity.

Waist circumference

Another way to estimate your risk of developing diabetes is to measure your waist circumference. Men have a higher risk of developing diabetes if their waist circumference is more than 40 inches, while women who are not pregnant have a higher risk if their waist circumference is more than 35 inches.6,7

Waist circumference is an indirect measurement of the amount of fat in your abdomen. Having a large waist circumference is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease, even if you have a normal BMI.


Last Reviewed July 2022
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

NIDDK would like to thank:
Rita Basu, M.D., University of Virginia