Diabetes is a complex condition that can be caused by a variety of reasons. If you are a diabetic patient or your family has a history of diabetes, you may be curious about whether the condition is genetic.
Common questions may include:
- Are some people genetically predisposed to develop diabetes?
- Can type 2 diabetes be hereditary?
- Is the condition purely a result of lifestyle?
The answer to these questions is more complex than many people realize. In this article, we’ll discuss the relationship between diabetes and genetics.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Let’s start by defining type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is by far the more common form of diabetes, with 90% of diabetic patients being type 2. Type 2 diabetes develops when sugar or glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Normally, the hormone insulin moves glucose from the blood into the cells to be used as energy. With type 2 diabetes, the body becomes insulin-resistant, rendering the hormone largely ineffective. This results in the build of sugar in the bloodstream, which can eventually lead to chronically high blood glucose levels unless the condition is managed properly.
Is Type 2 Diabetes Hereditary?
So, where does diabetes come from? Is diabetes genetically inherited, or does it develop as a result of non-genetic factors? Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes insulin-resistant, which can occur for a range of reasons.
Obesity and Genetics
Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, with almost 90% of people with type 2 diabetes being overweight. Obese people have an increased level of fatty acid and inflammation, which can lead to insulin resistance. While obesity is often a result of poor lifestyle choices, such as a fatty diet or a lack of exercise, genetics can also lead to obesity.
Genetics can influence an individual's weight gain. For example, the FTO gene (or fat mass and obesity-associated gene) is found in 43% of obese people. Even if your diabetes is a result of being overweight, chances are, your genetics played a part in your weight gain.
Can Diabetes Be Genetic Even if You Aren’t Overweight?
This is a challenging question to answer. In some cases, yes, diabetes seems to be an inherited condition. However, studies have shown that lifestyle choices are the most important factor when it comes to people developing the condition. For instance, if two people have the same genetic propensity for diabetes, the person who leads an active, healthy lifestyle is far less likely to develop the condition.
Find Out if You Are at Genetic Risk of Diabetes
If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, but know that obesity and diabetes run in your family, you may be wondering whether you can find out if you’re at risk. Unfortunately, doctors have not yet determined exactly which genes make you susceptible to type 2 diabetes.
Those with a genetic disposition for diabetes should aim to lead the healthiest lifestyle they can to minimize their chances of developing the condition. Here are a few ways you can lower your own risk:
- Exercise. Engage in a range of physical activities, including both aerobic and anaerobic activity in your regime.
- Meal planning. Avoid processed foods and enjoy a balanced diet that is rich in essential nutrients.
- Avoid obesity. Ensure that you pursue a healthy lifestyle that will minimize your chances of becoming obese.
Will I Pass Diabetes on to My Children?
If your family has a history of diabetes or you have been diagnosed with diabetes yourself, you may be concerned about passing the condition on to your children. It’s difficult to know whether you carry the genes that can increase the risk of diabetes. It’s also difficult to know whether your child may inherit these genes.
Instead, encourage healthy habits in your children and educate them about the condition. A healthy lifestyle should reduce their risk of developing the condition. If they do end up developing diabetes, they will be ready to manage the condition in the best way possible by continuing to make healthy lifestyle choices even after their diagnosis.
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