Figuring out who's likely to develop type 2 diabetes isn't all that difficult, provided the patient's healthcare provider asks the right questions and alerts the patient to the fact that he might have prediabetes.

A community study, the largest non-governmental study of its kind, found that predictors for the disease are easy to pinpoint. Known as SHIELD (The Study to Help Improve Early evaluation and management of risk factors Leading to Diabetes), the study was presented recently at the American Diabetes Association's 71st Annual Scientific Sessions, according to Medical News Today.

The data showed that fairly simple, easy to procure information, such as:

  • obesity
  • age
  • family history

are strong predictors as to who will develop type 2 diabetes. In fact, the information is so easy to obtain that adults can self-identify themselves as being at risk. When certain factors are present, the person's risk of getting the disorder goes up very substantially.

If healthcare providers were cognizant of the prediabetes risk factors and offered medical intervention, the number of cases of prediabetes that go on to type 2 diabetes may be reduced, experts say.

"We need to slow down the rate of transition to type 2 diabetes," SHIELD study investigator Helena W. Rodbard, MD, told Medical News Today. "SHIELD data can, ideally, be used to simplify the process by which clinicians identify and screen patients at risk of progressing, and help those in need get required support earlier."

Of the SHIELD study, Spyros Mezitis, MD, endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "They put together a nice questionnaire where you can ask specific questions. It puts this information all together and gives it a nice framework."

Asking the right questions enables doctors to identify people who may be at risk, he says. "It's important to tell people that they are at an increased risk because of certain factors," Mezitis says.

What Puts You Most at Risk?

According to SHIELD, the most important predictor for getting type 2 diabetes is advancing age. It bumps up the risk by anywhere from 300 to 500 percent.

Having high blood sugar without diabetes also boosts the chances of transitioning from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes, as does obesity and having a lot of abdominal fat.

A person's risk is increased by 50 percent if they experience excessive thirst, while family history bumps up the risk of transitioning to type 2 diabetes by some 40 percent.

The SHIELD study was a five-year longitudinal population-based survey conducted between 2004 and 2009, reports Medical News today.

If you're wondering if you're at risk for type 2 diabetes, it's important to be proactive in your medical care, says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, medical director of the non-profit Nutritional Magnesium Association. "People should ask their doctors what their glucose levels are, and ask if they are in the prediabetic range," she says.

They should also know, Dean says, that:

  • Normal fasting blood glucose is below 100 mg/dl.
  • A person with prediabetes has a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl.
  • Prediabetes is easier than diabetes to treat and turn around with diet and exercise.