Is Diabetes Hereditary?

 

Diabetes is becoming increasingly more common throughout the world. Many are interested in knowing what can be done to protect themselves from developing this disease. Is diabetes hereditary? This question especially concerns those who have a family history of diabetes. If you are at risk, understanding the answer to this question will help you take action to avoid developing this disease.

100_8964 by AlishaV, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  AlishaV 

To begin we must understand what diabetes is. When we eat, starches are broken down into glucose. Insulin helps the body’s cells absorb glucose, which they use for energy. When you eat more carbohydrates, normally your body responds by producing more insulin. Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Since cells cannot absorb the glucose, blood sugar levels rise.

High blood sugar levels slowly take their toll on the body. High-sugar foods are quickly absorbed by the body and create a sharp spike in blood sugar levels. These are particularly dangerous for a diabetic because it can lead to a diabetic coma.

There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is usually first seen in childhood or adolescence. In Type 1 diabetes the body does not produce insulin and the person will likely be dependent on insulin shots.

Type 2 diabetes usually becomes manifest later in life, although it is becoming more and more common in children. In type 2 diabetes the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or it doesn’t work properly. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1.

 

Now we can answer the question. Is diabetes hereditary? First, let’s talk about Type 1 diabetes. If only one of your parents has Type 1 diabetes, your risk of developing it is less than 6 percent. If both your parents have Type 1 diabetes, there is a 30 percent chance you will have it. So, we definitely see a hereditary relationship, but not as strong as you might have thought.

What about Type 2 diabetes? Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Nevertheless, the risk of a Type 2 diabetic’s children developing the disease is far greater. Reliable statistics are not available, but some estimate that if both parents have Type 2 diabetes, their children are at a 75 percent risk of developing it as well. This points to a genetic predisposition present in children of Type 2 diabetics.

As mentioned earlier, diabetes is usually present in overweight individuals who don’t get enough exercise. These lifestyle factors make a big difference. While we should all be concerned about eating healthily and exercising enough, for those who have a family history of Type 2 diabetes these steps are vital to preventing the development of this disease.

In conclusion there is no direct answer to the question, “Is diabetes hereditary?”. Your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes comes from a combination of factors, including genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. If you keep your weight down, eat right and exercise regularly you can significantly reduce you risk of developing this potentially deadly disease even if your genes are against you.

 

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