Diabetes Management

Can Diabetes Pass On To Generations?

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 30 May 2023, Updated on - 04 September 2023

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Diabetes is a complex condition with various types and causative agents. Moreover, some factors such as genetic predisposition can increase your risk of developing some types of diabetes. For instance, if a family member has type 2 diabetes, it may increase the likelihood of other family members developing the same condition. Understanding how diabetes runs in the family can help individuals take steps to prevent it and even lead to an early diagnosis. Therefore, it is important to learn about the inheritability of diabetes and take measures to reduce the risk.

How Does Family History Affect Different Types of Diabetes?

The extent to which genetics can impact the risk of developing diabetes varies depending on the type of diabetes. 

1. Family History and Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to a deficiency of insulin in the body. Notably, insulin is a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood and helps transport it to cells for energy production. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, leading to a condition called hyperglycemia.

While family history is a known risk factor for type 1 diabetes, the exact way it is inherited is not fully understood. Researchers believe that multiple genes may play a role in increasing the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. However, more research is needed to determine the specific genes involved and how they interact with other factors such as environmental triggers. Despite this uncertainty, having a family history of type 1 diabetes may warrant more frequent monitoring and screening for early detection.

2. Family History and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body becomes resistant to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. Initially, the pancreas compensates by producing more insulin, but over time, it is unable to maintain normal glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is strongly linked to family history and genetics.

While a family history of type 2 diabetes doesn't guarantee that an individual will develop the condition, it does increase the risk. The risk is greater when a first-degree relative, such as a parent or a sibling, has type 2 diabetes. In fact, research shows that having a parent with type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of developing the condition by up to three times. This highlights the importance of knowing one's family history and taking steps to prevent or manage diabetes if necessary.

What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Diabetes?

In addition to family history, there are many other factors that can increase an individual’s risk of developing diabetes. These include:

  • Age of 45 or more
  • Sedentary lifestyle with limited or no physical activity
  • Excess weight, obesity, or a high BMI
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of cholesterol or fat in the blood
  • A history of gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Depression
  • A history of heart disease

Those with two or more risk factors experience a higher risk of developing diabetes than others. 

How to Reduce the Risk of Diabetes if You Have a Family History of the Disease?

Although all the genetic risk factors for diabetes have not been discovered yet, regular screening is a must, especially if the person is prediabetic. Prediabetes is a condition where the blood glucose is high, but not high enough to diagnose type 2 diabetes. At this stage, diet and an active lifestyle may prevent the onset of diabetes. These changes include:

1. Begin an Exercise Programme

Gradually incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. For instance, park at a distance from building entrances or choose to take the stairs instead of the lift. You can also try to go for a walk during your lunch break. Once you feel ready, you can begin adding cardiovascular activities and mild weight training to your routine. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.

2. Craft a Well-balanced Meal Plan

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for preventing diabetes. Include fresh fruits and vegetables, fibre-rich foods, and whole grains in your diet to maintain a healthy weight and avoid blood sugar spikes. Cooking your own meals at home is the easiest way to make healthy choices. Plan out your meals for the week to stay on track with your healthy eating goals and resist the temptation of unhealthy foods and snacks.

3. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Losing weight can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes, especially for those who are overweight or obese. Aiming to lose around 5-7% of your weight can make a significant difference. A combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet can help achieve this weight loss goal.

Family history is a known risk factor for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Knowing one's family history and taking steps to prevent or manage diabetes can help reduce the risk of developing the condition. While lifestyle changes such as regular exercising, healthy eating, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent diabetes, regular screening is also important for managing the condition. For more,

Consult Apollo’s Expert Diabetologist

You can also manage your diabetes like a pro with Apollo 24|7's 12-week empower programme.


Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt


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