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What are Diabetes Risk Factors?

Discover the major diabetes risk factors, common signs, and symptoms specific to each type of diabetes.
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In this article, you’ll learn more about the diabetes risk factors, common signs, and symptoms specific to each type of diabetes


  • Diabetes is a serious complex condition that can affect the entire body
  • Diabetes requires daily self-care and if complications develop, diabetes can have a significant impact on the quality of life and can reduce life expectancy
  • While there is currently no cure for diabetes, people can live an enjoyable life by learning about the condition and effectively managing it
  • There are three main types of diabetes that we will look at over the next few screens.

Access the Diabetes Australia website for information, tools, and resources.

Diabetes and a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet used in the treatment of diabetes is similar to the diet recommended for all Australians. To help manage diabetes, Diabetes Australia recommends:

  • Eat regular meals and healthy snacks spread over the day
  • Base meals on high fibre carbohydrate foods such as wholegrain breads and cereals, beans, lentils, vegetables, and fruits
  • Watch the amount of fat eaten and limit the amount of saturated fat by choosing lean meats and low-fat dairy foods
  • Try to avoid fried takeaway foods, pastries, and biscuits
  • Keep weight within the healthy weight range by matching the amount of food eaten with the amount you burn up each day.

 Diabetes – Type I Diabetes

  • Previously known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM)
  • An autoimmune disease
  • Develops as a result of the immune system destroying the β cells in the pancreas
  • Insulin fails to be produced
  • The signs and symptoms of this the disease develops quickly and it is therefore usually diagnosed readily
  • These patients need to take parenteral insulin to control their BSL to prevent chronic hyperglycaemia and associated complications.

Diabetes Australia: Type 1 Diabetes

 Diabetes – Type II Diabetes

  • Previously known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)
  • The β cells of those with Type II diabetes still produce insulin, but not in sufficient quantities
  • Also, insulin receptor sites decrease in numbers, leading to insulin resistance
  • Patients may make lifestyle changes that control the disease
  • Many patients require oral medications and occasionally some require Insulin administration.

Diabetes Australia: Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes – Gestational Diabetes

  • Gestational diabetes mellitus (sometimes referred to as GDM) is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born
  • It is diagnosed when higher than normal blood glucose levels first appear during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes risk factors

Women at Increased Risk of Developing Gestational Diabetes Include Those Who:

  • Are aged 40 years or over
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes or a first-degree relative (mother or sister) who has had gestational diabetes
  • Are above the healthy weight range
  • Have had elevated blood glucose levels in the past
  • Are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
  • Are from a Melanesian, Polynesian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern or Indian background
  • Have had gestational diabetes during previous pregnancies
  • Have previously had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Have previously given birth to a large baby (weighing more than 4.5kg)
  • Are taking some types of anti-psychotic or steroid medications
  • Have gained weight too rapidly in the first half of pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes may also occur in women with no known risk factors.

Diabetes Australia: Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes and Exercise

Exercise and High Blood Glucose Levels (BGL)

Exercise in these circumstances can actually elevate blood glucose and increase ketone production.


  • Ketoacidosis is life-threatening
  • It happens normally in Type I diabetics
  • The body cannot utilize sugar due to a lack of or inadequate insulin.
  • Fat is used as fuel instead
  • As fat breaks down acids called ketones build up in blood and urine – ketones are poisonous
  • In extreme circumstances, this can also occur in Type 2.

Complications Include

  • Cerebral edema
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Kidney failure.

Signs – decreased or loss of consciousness, fruity breath, nausea, trouble breathing, vomiting – seek immediate medical aid urgently.

Source: Diabetes Australia, 2019.

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