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What Kind of Lifestyle Leads to Diabetes? Risk Factors, Challenges, and Choices

Content Team



8 min

A person’s lifestyle can have a significant impact on their health. It can put a person at a lower or higher risk of certain diseases.

Diabetes mellitus is among those diseases that don’t have a specific cause but can appear if the person has preexisting risk factors compounded by their lifestyle choices.

As such, let’s look at the kind of lifestyle that leads to diabetes and how to reduce the risk whenever possible.

Lifestyle Choices That Can Contribute to Diabetes

Everything we’ll discuss is regarding type 2 diabetes, as it’s the most common (around 90% of cases). It’s also the type of diabetes that can be affected by lifestyle choices, as type 1 is caused by genetic defects that cause the body to attack insulin-producing pancreatic cells.

That said, here are the lifestyle choices and habits that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

Eating too Much Takeout

A takeout meal
A takeout meal

Restaurants and street vendors often focus on quantity over quality, making it challenging to find a place where you can be served healthy food.

Unfortunately, many people already rely on restaurants for most of their nutrition since it’s difficult to have time to cook your own food in the fast-paced modern world. Takeout is often rich in salt, sugar, and fat because they improve the flavor of the food, making you come back for more.

A diet heavy in these elements makes most people gain weight even with smaller portions than home-cooked meals.

Having a high body mass index is one of the most common contributing factors to developing diabetes. Because of that, people should avoid high-calorie diets as much as they can.

Replacing such diets with insulin-resistance diets can reduce the chances of developing diabetes and help people with existing diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.

Nutritional Deficiencies

A blood test looking for nutrient levels in the blood
A blood test looking for nutrient levels in the blood

A high-calorie diet can contribute to diabetes, but so does a lack of proper nutrition. Not eating enough doesn’t only increase the risk of diabetes; it can also contribute to many other undesirable physical conditions, like muscle atrophy, fatigue, drowsiness, and reduced overall physical activity.

Further, prolonged deficiency of essential minerals, like vitamin D, can also increase insulin resistance risk, leading to diabetes.

That’s because nutritional deficiency can also cause all body organs to function sub-optimally due to the lack of necessary glucose. That includes the ability of the pancreatic cells to produce insulin and take in the circulating glucose from the bloodstream.

A well-rounded diet of protein, vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats can help the body control blood glucose and insulin levels.

Lack of Exercise

A man on a mat in the middle of his exercises
A man on a mat in the middle of his exercises

Exercise is healthy for the body and mind, and according to several studies, it can delay the onset of diabetes, even in individuals with a family history of the disease.

Additionally, exercise can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. Physical activity helps increase insulin sensitivity, which makes the cells utilize the insulin secreted by the body, reducing the risk of hyperglycemia (elevated blood glucose level).

The recommended amount of weekly exercise is 150 minutes or two and a half hours. Ideally, these should be done in 30-minute increments five days a week.

Drinking Alcohol

A man looking at a glass of beer
A man looking at a glass of beer

Alcohol can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. The mechanism isn’t fully understood, but regular heavy drinking can cause impaired glucose tolerance. Also, heavy drinking is one of the contributing factors to pancreatitis, which can damage insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Further, alcoholic drinks contain a high number of calories, especially sugary cocktails, which can spike your blood sugar level.

The best approach is to stay away from alcohol as much as possible and to abstain from binge drinking, never exceeding 14 units per week (distributed over 3-4 days).

A Sedentary Lifestyle

A middle-aged overweight man sitting on a brown sofa
A middle-aged overweight man sitting on a brown sofa

A sedentary lifestyle means that the person spends the majority of their day sitting or lying down, which can increase the risk of diabetes.

That’s because hours of sitting still while working, studying, watching TV, or driving adversely affect your metabolism.

With most work done sitting, it can be difficult to escape the sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately, there are a few modifications you can introduce.

For example, you can set an alarm clock every 40 minutes to remind you that you need to stand up, stretch, and walk around. You can also get a standing desk, which helps you elevate your computer/notes so you can work while standing.

If you have limited mobility or getting off your chair isn’t an option in a strict workplace, you can try chair-based exercises.

Smoking and Recreational Drug Use

Injecting insulin into one
Injecting insulin into one's arm with a syringe

Smoking is one of the primary contributing factors to diabetes, not to mention the various other diseases it can contribute to or directly cause.

Drug abuse can also contribute to multiple physical conditions, including diabetes.

Both smoking and drug abuse can increase the risk of insulin resistance as well, making it easier for the body to develop type 2 diabetes.

A Stressful Lifestyle

Woman stresses over her work load
Woman stresses over her work load

Whether physical or mental, stress can contribute to developing a large number of diseases. Stress is arguably the most difficult contributing factor to escape on this list since various life occasions can stress you out.

Constant stress can cause spikes in the hormone adrenaline and cortisol, which can result in disrupted sleep, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other cardiovascular issues.

A considerable effort should be directed at reducing stress by learning mind-body exercises and relaxation techniques. Meditation and mindfulness can help you reduce your basal stress and anxiety levels, improving your overall health and wellness.

Diabetes Risk Factors

Diabetes Risk Factors & Complications
Diabetes Risk Factors & Complications

In addition to the factors mentioned above, there are some physical conditions that can increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Some of those factors, like high blood pressure, can be handled with medication.

High Blood Pressure

Chronic high blood pressure can damage the walls of blood vessels, which, in turn, damage the blood vessels in the pancreas and impair insulin secretion.

Further, it can make the body’s cells less responsive to insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes.


People who are 45 years or older are more susceptible to developing diabetes. As we age, our cells become less responsive to insulin, and science has yet to find a solution to this.

The number of beta cells present in the pancreas decreases with age as well, leading to reduced insulin secretion and retention of glucose in the bloodstream.

There will always be a degree of insulin resistance with age, but this degree can be drastically reduced by taking on a healthy lifestyle.


Diabetes is strongly linked to genetics. If a person has a parent or a grandparent with diabetes, their risk of developing the disease also increases.

Further, diabetes seems to affect some races more than others. African Americans, Native American, and Hispanic individuals are more prone to diabetes compared to other ethnicities.

It’s worth noting that the correlation between ethnicity and type 2 diabetes could be due to systemic poverty and lack of opportunity among disenfranchised communities.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition of hyperglycemia that occurs during pregnancy. While it typically gradually disappears after pregnancy, it’s still a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

The hormones produced during pregnancy impair insulin secretion and, in return, increase blood sugar levels.

Maintaining a healthy diet and weight during pregnancy and postpartum can significantly reduce the risk of gestational diabetes turning into permanent type 2 diabetes.

Heart Disease

Some heart diseases, like congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease, can reduce the blood flow to the body's organs. When the blood supply is reduced to the pancreas, insulin secretion is impaired, resulting in glucose retention in the bloodstream.

However, it’s important to note that not everyone who has heart disease will develop diabetes.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects 6-12% of women. The hormonal imbalance it causes can make the body cells more resistant to insulin, which prevents them from taking in the circulating blood sugar.

Unfortunately, science has yet to find a definitive treatment for PCOS. As such, women who develop such a condition should do their best to minimize other risk factors of diabetes.

Organ Transplantation

People who undergo organ transplants need to take immunosuppressants to prevent their immune system from rejecting the newly transplanted organ.

While these medications improve the success chances of the surgery, they can contribute to diabetes or worsen the pre-existing condition.

Assessing the Diabetes Risk

There are three steps that you can take to assess the risk of diabetes.

Step 1: Online Risk Calculator

Online risk calculators can give you an overall assessment of your diabetes risk. The test takes less than a minute, and it consists of multiple-choice questions. You can try the CDC’s diabetes risk calculator or the one provided by diabetes.org.

These calculators shouldn’t be taken as a definitive diagnosis, as the questions lack the in-depth assessment of a medical practitioner.

Step 2: Considering the Risk Factors

Based on the information provided in this guide, you should analyze your lifestyle and health factors to see whether you’re close to developing diabetes.

You should analyze:

  • Your Age
  • Weight
  • Family history
  • Ethnicity
  • Physical activity
  • Diet
  • Habits

Step 3: Professional Assessment

Visiting a doctor is the best approach to getting a comprehensive assessment. Your doctor will take your medical and familial history and blood test results and use them to assess your diabetes risk.

Let your doctor know if you’re suffering from newly diagnosed physical conditions. Their decision might change based on other pre-existing conditions.

Be honest about your lifestyle, eating habits, drinking, smoking, and physical activity, as this ensures the most accurate results.

Handling Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

The only available treatment for type 1 and some cases of type 2 diabetes is administering daily insulin injections.

It can be highly inconvenient for some people to inject insulin to keep their condition under control. The situation can be much worse if the person has a needle phobia.

The needle-free V5 injector from InsuJet was developed specifically for this problem. It utilizes a high-speed jet injection technology that painlessly penetrates the skin without a needle and without bleeding.

The infection risk is remarkably diminished because of the absence of a needle sharp, and the process becomes much easier, safer, and more convenient.

Browse our storefront to check out how InsuJet can transform your insulin therapy.

Final Words

There’s no specific lifestyle that leads to diabetes (in a direct way). It’s rather a collection of habits and practices that can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.

While some factors are difficult to control, others are much more manageable. Most people can try to manage their weight, eat healthier, exercise more, and avoid smoking and excessive drinking to reduce their risk.

As for pregnant women, they should monitor their health with their doctors during pregnancy to detect any issues or risk factors and eliminate them early on.

Lastly, even if you were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you can still help manage your condition and live a healthy, fulfilling life by following the advice as mentioned earlier.

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