Do you have a family member who was diagnosed with diabetes? If so, you may wonder how to prevent diabetes with a family history that places you at greater risk. While a family history of diabetes does mean that you're more likely to develop it yourself, there are still several things you can do to help prevent or slow down the development of diabetes.
Will I get diabetes if it runs in my family?
Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of diabetes. For example, children whose parents are both type 1 diabetics are much more likely to develop type 1 diabetes later in life than children with only one diabetic parent or who were not born to diabetic parents.
Similarly, type 2 diabetes is strongly affected by genetics. People who have a family history of type 2 diabetes — not just parents, but siblings or other relations — are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
However, genes aren't the only factor contributing to diabetes. Environmental factors also play a huge role. Exercise, habits, diet, and other lifestyle choices can influence whether or not diabetes develops and how quickly it appears. This means that even if you're predisposed to diabetes, there are several things you can do to help prevent or mitigate the condition.
Aside from genetic predispositions, certain environmental triggers can activate diabetes. Researchers have identified several factors that might initiate type 1 diabetes in individuals with a susceptibility to the condition, such as:
- Encountering specific viruses
- Living in a frigid environment
- Introduction to solid foods at a premature age
- Absence of breastfeeding
How to prevent diabetes with family history
Just because you have a family history of diabetes doesn't mean you're destined to develop diabetes, especially if you do your best to follow preventative measures. If you have a family history of diabetes, there are several things you can do that may help slow the progression of diabetes.
Be aware of your family history
It's important to understand your family health history. Doing so will help you prepare for potential future health disturbances and allow you to invest time and effort into preventative care. If you have a family history of diabetes, it's important to keep up to date with testing, even if you haven't experienced any symptoms of diabetes.
Physical activity is one of the best choices to help prevent or manage diabetes. Exercise offers many wonderful benefits, from maintaining a healthy weight to improving mood. It can also help you strengthen your muscles, increase blood circulation, lower blood sugar levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and contribute to your overall health and well-being.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week and work on muscle-building exercises at least twice a week. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) further recommends moving for a few minutes every half hour, especially during long periods of sitting or other sedentary behavior.
Make healthy diet choices
Remember, your family history isn't the only factor determining whether or not you develop diabetes. For many people, it's not even the most important factor! Making the right lifestyle choices may be all you need to do to prevent or manage some types of diabetes. Most people will benefit from a diet that:
- Limits sugars and processed food products.
- Is full of whole grains and whole carbs.
- Includes some healthy fats.
- Sticks to lean and plant-based proteins.
- Contains plenty of non-starchy vegetables.
Avoid smoking, drinking, and using recreational substances
Smoking can greatly increase your risk of diabetes — in fact, according to the CDC, smokers have a 40% greater chance of developing diabetes than nonsmokers. This is because smoking causes inflammation throughout the body and injures your cells. Nicotine — the addictive chemical found in tobacco — can also decrease insulin sensitivity and make it more difficult to keep blood glucose levels under control.
Likewise, alcoholism can make it much more difficult to control your blood sugar levels and may result in nutrition or vitamin deficiencies that can lead to additional complications. Substance abuse may also play a role in the development of diabetes, though more studies are needed.
Maintain a healthy weight
Overweight or obese individuals are much more likely to develop certain types of diabetes, as excess weight makes it more difficult to manage blood sugar levels and can reduce insulin sensitivity. If you aren't at an ideal weight, making small changes to your diet and exercise routine can help shed extra pounds. Some people have even turned to surgery to help get their weight under control.
Genetic testing in diabetes diagnosis
Genetic evaluations can be instrumental in detecting specific diabetes types that are monogenic, indicating a mutation or malfunction in a single gene. Both neonatal diabetes and MODY (Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young) fall into this category and are often misdiagnosed.
Accurate diagnosis, especially for these monogenic diabetes variants, is pivotal and relies heavily on genetic testing. A precise diagnosis is essential to ensure the individual receives apt treatment tailored to their specific diabetes type.
Medical practitioners might advocate for genetic testing in cases where a diabetes diagnosis does not align with typical scenarios. For instance, an individual in their mid-twenties exhibiting unusual blood sugar levels and lacking conventional risk factors for type 1 or type 2 diabetes might be afflicted with MODY.
Additionally, diagnosing MODY genetically allows pinpointing at-risk immediate family members with a 50% likelihood of inheriting the gene mutation. Suppose you or your offspring are perceived to be at an elevated risk for developing type 1 diabetes. In that case, eligibility for a risk screening through the TrialNet Pathway to Prevention Study might be viable. This complimentary screening for relatives of type 1 diabetes patients involves a blood test to identify diabetes-related antibodies, signaling an immune system attack on pancreatic cells. Notably, this screening can identify these antibodies even years before the manifestation of diabetes symptoms.
Individuals identified to be in the initial phases of type 1 diabetes development may also qualify for a prevention study. Consult with your healthcare professional regarding the availability and utility of genetic testing in predicting diabetes onset. While MODY and neonatal diabetes are monogenic, types 1 and 2 diabetes are polygenic, involving mutations in numerous genes.
The scientific community remains unconvinced about utilizing genetic testing for diagnosing type 2 diabetes due to the numerous gene variants and type 2 diabetes subtypes. The consensus leans towards necessitating additional research and improved methodologies in this field before it's integrated into practical application.
How to prevent genetic diabetes when it runs in the family: a note for parents
What do you do if you're a parent and diabetes runs in your family? Many parents are concerned about their child's risk of developing diabetes. Luckily, though, there are several things you can do to help your child avoid this common health condition.
The single greatest thing that parents can do to help prevent diabetes in children is to model good lifestyle habits. Even though genetics play a role, habits and lifestyle choices can be equally — if not more — defining.
Do your best to encourage children to make healthy food choices and get the right amount of physical activity each day by modeling these behaviors yourself.
After diagnosis: what to do if you develop diabetes
What happens if you do develop diabetes? Rest assured that there are many things you can do to help manage your condition and prevent it from progressing so that you can still enjoy a high quality of life. All of the preventative measures mentioned above are also excellent ways to manage diabetes if it does develop.
The key to effectively managing diabetes is to catch it early and implement your treatment plan as soon as possible. Doing so will not only help slow the progression of the disease but can also prevent additional complications and conditions such as diabetic neuropathy.
Of course, when lifestyle changes aren't enough, plenty of other treatment options are designed to help you manage your diabetes and any associated symptoms. Acupuncture, therapy, medication, yoga, and massage are just a few of the many options available. Aids such as diabetic socks and compression socks are also must-have tools for diabetic patients.
Buy diabetic socks online at Viasox
Foot problems are one of the most common issues associated with diabetes. Luckily, our team at Viasox recognizes the need for quality foot care — that's why we're proud to offer functional and fashionable diabetic socks and compression socks to help diabetic patients protect their feet from damage, injury, and infection.
Our socks aren't just great for keeping your feet warm — they're specially designed with your comfort and safety in mind. Made with a protective material blend, super-stretchy fabric, and antimicrobial and moisture-wicking properties, our socks are a wardrobe staple for anyone with diabetes, neuropathy or sensitive feet. We stock a huge range of socks in a variety of styles, lengths, colors, and sizes to ensure that everyone will find a pair that's right for them.Shop online with us today to browse our entire collection of non-binding diabetic socks and compression socks, or contact our friendly team for help placing your order.