Type 2 diabetes occurs when thepancreas doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level, or the body is unable to use the insulin that is produced ( insulin resistance).

The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach that produces the hormone insulin. Insulin moves glucose from your blood into your cells, where it's converted into energy.

In type 2 diabetes, there are several reasons why the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

Threeof the main risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are:

  • agebeing over the age of 40 (over 25 forpeople of south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or black African origin, even if you were born in the UK)
  • geneticshaving a close relative with the condition, such as a parent, brother or sister
  • weightbeing overweight or obese

People of south AsianandAfrican-Caribbean origin also have an increased risk ofdeveloping complications of diabetes , such as heart disease, at a younger age than the rest of the population.

These risk factors are discussed in more detail below.

Read about reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes .


Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. This may be because people tend to gain weight and exercise less as they get older.

Maintaining ahealthy weight by eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly are ways of preventing and managing diabetes.

Whitepeople over the age of 40 have an increased risk of developing the condition. People of south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean and black Africanoriginhave an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a much earlier age.

However, despite increasing age being a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, over recent years younger peoplefrom all ethnic groups have been developing the condition.

It's also becoming more common for children as young as seven in some cases to develop type 2 diabetes.


Genetics is one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Your risk of developing the condition is increased if you have a close relativesuch as a parent, brother or sisterwho has the condition.

The closer the relative, the greater the risk. A child who hasa parent with type 2 diabetes hasabout a one in three chance of also developing the condition.

Being overweight or obese

You're more likely to developtype 2 diabetes if you're overweight or obese.

For most people in the UK,a body mass index (BMI) of:

  • 25 or above putsyou in the overweight range
  • 30 orabove puts you in the obese range

However, some groups have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Asians with a BMI score of 23 or more are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Asians with a BMI of 27.5 or more are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Fat around your tummy (abdomen) particularly increases your risk. This is because it releases chemicals that can upset the body's cardiovascular and metabolic systems.

This increases your risk of developing a number of serious conditions, including:

  • coronaryheart disease
  • stroke
  • some types of cancer

Measuring your waist is a quick way of assessing your diabetes risk. This is a measure of abdominal obesity , which is a particularly high-risk form of obesity.

Some groups have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, based on their waist measurements:

  • womenwith awaistsize of80cm (31.5 inches) or more
  • Asian men with a waist size of 89cm (35 inches)ormore
  • white or black men with a waist size of 94cm (37 inches) or more

Use the BMI calculator to find out if you're a healthy weight for your height.

Exercising regularly and reducing your body weight by about 5% could reduce your risk of getting diabetes by more than 50%.

Read information and advice about losing weight .

Other risks

Your risk ofdeveloping type 2 diabetesis also increasedif your blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

This is sometimes called pre-diabetes, anddoctors sometimes call it impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).

Pre-diabetescan progress to type 2 diabetes if you don't take preventative steps, such as making lifestyle changes. These include eating healthily , losing weight if you're overweight, and taking plenty of regular exercise .

Women who have had gestational diabetes during pregnancy also have agreater risk of developing diabetes in later life.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Nov 2016