Understand Your Risk for Diabetes

Understand Your Risk for Diabetes
Diabetes contributes to over 230,000 U.S. deaths per year. However, many people with type 2 diabetes are not aware they have the disease and may already have developed various health complications associated with it.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

There are a number of risk factors that increase a person’s risk for developing prediabetes and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes. Some of these characteristics are beyond a person’s control, such as:

Family history
If you have a blood relative with diabetes, your risk for developing it is significantly increased. Map out your family history tree (PDF) and take it to your doctor to find out what it means for you.
Race or ethnic background
If you are of African-American, Asian-American, Latino/Hispanic-American, Native American or Pacific Islander descent, you have a greater likelihood of developing diabetes.
Age
The older you are, the higher your risk. Generally, type 2 diabetes occurs in middle-aged adults, most frequently after age 45. However, health care providers are diagnosing more and more children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes.
History of gestational diabetes
If you developed diabetes during pregnancy or delivered a baby over 9 lbs., you are at increased risk.

Modifiable Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

While some things that contribute to the development of diabetes are beyond a person’s control, there are also a number of modifiable risk factors. By making healthy changes in these areas, people can reduce their risks or delay the development of diabetes and improve their overall quality of life.

Overweight/obesity
About 50 percent of men and 70 percent of women who have diabetes are obese. If you are 20 percent or more over your optimal body weight, you have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Losing five to seven percent of your body weight can cut your risk of developing prediabetes in half, and your risk decreases even more as you lose more weight. Learn how to manage your weight.
Physical inactivity
Along with overweight/obesity, physical inactivity ranks among the top modifiable risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. By achieving 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 90 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination of the two, you can improve your health and minimize risks for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
In addition to causing damage to the cardiovascular system, untreated high blood pressure has been linked to the development of diabetes. Learn more about high blood pressure and how to control it.
Abnormal cholesterol (lipid) levels
Low HDL “good” cholesterol” and/or high triglycerides can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Both of these abnormalities can also increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. A healthy eating plan, sufficient aerobic physical activity, and a healthy weight can help improve abnormal lipds. Sometimes medicinations are necessary.
By following our healthy living tips, you can take control of these modifiable risk factors, prevent or delay the development of diabetes, and improve your quality of life.

This content was last reviewed on 7/5/2012.

Genetics of Diabetes

Genetics of Diabetes

You’ve probably wondered how you developed diabetes. You may worry that your children will develop it too.

Unlike some traits, diabetes does not seem to be inherited in a simple pattern. Yet clearly, some people are born more likely to develop diabetes than others.

What Leads to Diabetes?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes. Yet two factors are important in both. You inherit a predisposition to the disease then something in your environment triggers it.

Genes alone are not enough. One proof of this is identical twins. Identical twins have identical genes. Yet when one twin has type 1 diabetes, the other gets the disease at most only half the time.

When one twin has type 2 diabetes, the other’s risk is at most 3 in 4.

Type 1 Diabetes

In most cases of type 1 diabetes, people need to inherit risk factors from both parents. We think these factors must be more common in whites because whites have the highest rate of type 1 diabetes.

Because most people who are at risk do not get diabetes, researchers want to find out what the environmental triggers are.

One trigger might be related to cold weather. Type 1 diabetes develops more often in winter than summer and is more common in places with cold climates.

Another trigger might be viruses. Perhaps a virus that has only mild effects on most people triggers type 1 diabetes in others.

Early diet may also play a role. Type 1 diabetes is less common in people who were breastfed and in those who first ate solid foods at later ages.

In many people, the development of type 1 diabetes seems to take many years. In experiments that followed relatives of people with type 1 diabetes, researchers found that most of those who later got diabetes had certain autoantibodies in their blood for years before.

(Antibodies are proteins that destroy bacteria or viruses. Autoantibodies are antibodies ‘gone bad,’ which attack the body’s own tissues.)

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Importance of Wearing a Medical Alert Bracelet with Diabetes

Medical alert bracelets enable rapid identification of patients with a number of illnesses, including diabetes, which can make them unable to communicate their illness to others, according to Shamai Grossman, M.D., Director of the Cardiac Emergency Center and Clinical Decision Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center).

How They’re Beneficial for People with Diabetes

Medical alert bracelets can be extremely important for people with diabetes. Should you have a low blood glucose reaction and suddenly become confused or unresponsive, the bracelet allows immediate identification of the problem to both bystanders and paramedics. The sooner the low blood glucose reactions can be identified, the sooner they can be treated.

Emergency department personnel also use medical alert bracelets to rapidly identify people with diabetes, particularly when they may not be able to express that they have diabetes on their own. On arrival to an emergency department, one of the routine parts of the evaluation of the critically ill, unconscious, or disoriented patients is to remove their clothing to inspect the body for a cause of their sudden alteration, Grossman says. In these situations, medical alert bracelets can be invaluable as a time saver.
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