Is Diabetes Genetic? The Truth About Hereditary Risk Factors
Diabetes can’t be explained as well as most of us would like it to be.
What is known however is that some people can be more venerable, and their chances of developing diabetes can be greater due to genetics, especially if the right environment is presented.
But that doesn’t mean that individuals with no family history of diabetes are safe.
They are also in danger of developing this disease “thanks” to the certain unhealthy lifestyle they lead.
In other words, there are many possible factors for the development of diabetes, which is why taking steps to decrease the risk factors is so important.
Type I Diabetes – Is it hereditary?
This type also goes by the name ‘juvenile diabetes’ since most patients have been diagnosed during their childhood years.
A while ago, doctors were certain that type I diabetes was completely from genetic reasons.
However, more recent studies have shown that a child is likely to develop this type of diabetes if:
- Their mother has it – 3%
- Their father has it – 5%
- If a sibling has it – 8%
Furthermore, research now may suggest that there needs to be some environmental factor in order for this type of diabetes to be triggered.
Some risk factors are:
- Cold weather – people develop type I diabetes far more often in the winter than the summer. It is also more common in areas with a colder climate.
- Viruses – researchers have reason to think that some types of viruses could cause this disease in individuals who are already vulnerable. For instance, mumps, measles, rotavirus, and coxsackie B virus may all represent a risk factor.
Basically, those who have type I diabetes have already had autoimmune antibodies in the system for years.
Something must have triggered the symptoms to appear by activating the autoimmune antibodies.
Type II Diabetes – Is it hereditary?
This type is far more common and the majority of diabetics are actually type II. In fact, it accounts for 90% of cases on a worldwide level.
And, unfortunately, much like type I, this disease is also at least partially hereditary.
But it too is linked to several lifestyle factors which can contribute to its appearance, and this includes obesity.
In one particular study, 73% of those who had type II diabetes also had moderate to high genetic risk factors.
And only 40% of them were obese. What this study suggests is that the risk factor connected to family history can increase one’s chances of diabetes even more than obesity can.
Of course, when both these risk factors a present in a person, then their chances of developing diabetes increase much more.
Those who reported diabetes in their family history and were obese had a 40% chance of developing type II diabetes.
However, having it in our genetics doesn’t mean that diabetes is unavoidable.
And once again, even those who do not have a single relative with diabetes could still end up with the disease, depending on certain other factors:
- Being obese or overweight
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle (exercising can aid in lowering your blood sugars)
- Having a history of cardiovascular disease
- Having high levels of fats, having high blood pressure and a low HDL good cholesterol
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome or depression
- A family history of gestational diabetes
Moreover, one’s chances of developing diabetes become higher the more the person ages. After 45 they are particularly high, and especially if other risk factors are involved.
Can Diabetes Run in The Family Without Being Genetic?
First of all, it is rather hard to determine whether diabetes which runs in the family is genetic or not.
And this is because certain types of behavior also run in the family.
Take, for example, the fact that many families eat together.
So, the parents have an influence on the eating habits of their children, and that can include weight and one’s chances of diabetes.
In other words, it is not surprising at all if families who constantly consume high-sugar, high-fat foods also have multiple cases of diabetes in their history.
It is never an easy task to understand and explain why one person may develop diabetes while another does not.
Like we already mentioned, it is not just genetics which plays a part here.
Someone can have a long line of diabetes in their family and not develop the disease themselves; while someone else who hasn’t had a single case in their family history develops it due to unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle choices.
How to Reduce the Risk of Passing On Diabetes?
Those who already fear they may have a higher risk of developing diabetes than others (genetics) should take necessary steps to reduce that risk.
For example, parents who worry that their kids may develop type I diabetes would do well to breastfeed them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is advising mothers to breastfeed until the baby is 6 months old, and introduce solids to them when they are between 6 and 7 months.
Individuals who have concerns can consult with their doctors and undergo genetic testing.
Knowing how big one’s risk is can encourage one to make the right choices in life.
Many of the lifestyle choices which aid those who already have type II diabetes to manage it can also help reduce the risks of developing diabetes in the first place. Those are:
- Making sure to keep up a normal body weight – those who are obese or overweight may decrease their risk of developing diabetes by losing about 5-7% of their initial body weight. Yes, that means even if they remain obese or overweight after losing that much.
- Staying active – a physical activity for at least half an hour five days of the week can make significant changes and lower any diabetes risks.
- Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet – once again, we cannot stress enough how important this is. And we don’t mean for just a certain period, this should last an entire lifetime if one is to reap all the health benefits and decrease their diabetes risks. Additionally, it’s always best to opt for foods rich in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber is great at reducing blood glucose levels.
Those who fear that they may be ‘the next candidate’ for developing diabetes should go to regular blood glucose monitoring.
There are also certain symptoms of diabetes, such as unexplained and frequent infections, constant urination and excessive thirst, as well as feeling fatigued all the time.
If someone has been experiencing them and have diabetes cases in family history, then medical attention should be the first choice.
Having said that, there have been plenty of diabetes patient cases which did not show any warning symptoms at all.
To conclude, one can never know for sure, so, just to be on the safe side, maintain your health with the right choices in life!