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Diabetes (Mellitus, Type 1 and Type 2) (cont.)

Diabetes Causes

Type 1 diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune disease. The body's immune system specifically attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

  • A predisposition to develop type 1 diabetes may run in families, but genetic causes (a positive family history) are much more common for type 2 diabetes.
  • Environmental factors, including common unavoidable viral infections, may also contribute to type 1 diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes is most common in people of non-Hispanic, Northern European descent (especially Finland and Sardinia), followed by African Americans, and Hispanic Americans. It is relatively rare in those of Asian descent.
  • Type 1 diabetes is slightly more common in men than in women.

Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes has strong genetic links, meaning that type 2 diabetes tends to run in families. Several genes have been identified, and more are under study which may relate to the causes of type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood triglyceride (fat) levels
  • Gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • High-fat diet
  • High alcohol intake
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Ethnicity, particularly when a close relative had type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes: certain groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Japanese Americans, have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
  • Aging: Increasing age is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Risk begins to rise significantly at about age 45 years, and rises considerably after age 65 years.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2014

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