Body

Diabetes: risk factors

Doctors know a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and being overweight are major risk factors when it comes to diabetes, but they have also discovered other, less well-known factors that may play a part.

By Morgan Johnston

Not getting enough sleep
Regularly sleeping for less than five hours a night can double your risk of getting diabetes, compared to someone who gets seven to eight hours shuteye, according to US research. It’s thought this is because being awake when you should be asleep upsets your circadian rhythm and prompts your body to produce more glucose to keep it going. Excess glucose in the body can lead to an insulin imbalance, which in turn can result in diabetes.

Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Like diabetes, PCOS – which causes tiny cysts to grow on the ovaries – is linked to an insulin imbalance. When insulin levels rise, it can damage both the pancreas and the ovaries. So, if you have polycystic ovaries, you have an increased chance of getting diabetes.

Snoring heavily
Heavy snorers may be up to 50% more likely to end up with diabetes. A US study has found that people with the snoring condition, sleep apnoea, have an increased chance of having high blood sugar levels. It’s not known if this is because sleep apnoea tends to affect people who are overweight, as does diabetes, or if it’s because the airways closing during snoring prompts the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn triggers the production of more glucose.

Having a pot belly
If you carry excess weight around your waist, rather than on your hips and thighs, you could be more prone to diabetes. That’s due to the fact that visceral fat – the type lying around the organs in your abdomen – releases chemicals that disrupt the balance of glucose and insulin.

Going without breakfast
Skipping breakfast can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels later in the morning, making you crave sugary foods. Blood sugar then surges and this will over stimulate your production of insulin in the long run. As a result, your cells can become resistant to the effects of insulin – and that’s when diabetes sets in.

Drinking lots of fruit juice
One study has shown that drinking about 180ml of fruit juice a day increases the risk of getting diabetes by 18%. This is because the natural sugars in the juice are absorbed quickly into the body, causing a spike in blood sugar. It’s much better to eat the actual fruit because it contains fibres that take longer to digest and don’t have the same impact on your blood sugar.

HEALTH WATCH

  • There has been a lot of debate over whether video games are bad for kids’ brains, but it seems ones that involve interactive exercise may be good for adults’ ones. Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found taking part in a virtual cycling game improved the cognitive skills of adults.
  • Kidney failure is a serious potential complication for diabetics, but in the future doctors may be able to tell which people with the disease may be at greater risk from it. US researchers have identified two “markers”, which may not only show who is likely to suffer from early renal failure, but may also help in the development of therapies to prevent or postpone the progression of kidney disease.

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