What's Our Family's Risk of Diabetes?

The National Diabetes Education Program says holiday family gatherings are a good time for the older and younger generations to share information that can help us lower the risk.

Diabetes might not seem like the ideal topic of conversation during holiday visits—yet in many ways, this is a very good time to raise the subject. It’s a time when family members who are living with the disease can talk about ways they are keeping the condition under control, what with the temptations of the holiday table and the hectic schedule. And, even more important, it’s a time for family members to share information about their health, because one of the top risk factors for diabetes is a family history of the disease, and the holidays are when family members are most likely to be together.

Why This Conversation Is Important

Your family health history is an important part of understanding your chance for developing a number of serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease that, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems including blindness, loss of limbs, kidney failure, heart disease, and early death. In fact, most people with type 2 diabetes have a family member—such as a mother, father, brother, or sister—with the disease.

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) encourages all families to gather their family health history this holiday season and help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in future generations.  

Once you learn about your family health history, share it with your health care team, and take important steps to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Studies show that losing 10-15 pounds if you are overweight, walking 30 minutes a day at least five days a week, and following a low-fat, low-calorie meal plan are action steps to help prevent or delay the disease.

Four Questions You Should Ask

The answers to these key questions could help you prevent type 2 diabetes in your future:

  • Does anyone in the family have type 2 diabetes? Who has type 2 diabetes?
  • Has anyone in the family been told they might get diabetes?
  • Has anyone in the family been told they need to lower their weight or increase their physical activity to prevent type 2 diabetes?
  • Did any women in the family develop diabetes when they were pregnant? (This condition is also known as gestational diabetes.)

If the answer to any of these is yes, or you have a mother, father, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes, you may be at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor to learn more about managing your risk and preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes.

Other Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

In addition to having a family history of diabetes, there are other factors that increase your risk for developing the disease. Be sure to talk with your health care team about your chance of developing type 2 diabetes and whether you should be tested, if you:

  • are age 45 or older
  • are overweight or obese
  • exercise less than three times a week
  • have other health problems such as high blood pressure
  • had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
  • have prediabetes, which means your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes
  • are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.

For more ways to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, check out NDEP’s Choose More than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, available at www.YourDiabetesInfo.org or call 1-888-693-NDEP (1-888-693-6337), TTY: 1-866-569-1162.


 

Adapted from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.