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Family Health History and Diabetes

En español

Family health history is an important risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.

Did you know?

  • Nearly 29.1 million Americans have diabetes.
  • 8.1 million people with diabetes do not even know that they have this disease.
  • An estimated 86 million adults in the U.S. have prediabetes, placing them at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Having a family history of diabetes places you at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • If you are a woman who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you are at increased risk for developing diabetes, and the child of that pregnancy is at increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

But there is good news! If you are at risk for diabetes, there are things you can do to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Take the Family Health History Quiz

Prevent Type 2 Diabetes in Your Family

Helpful Resources

 

En español

Family health history is an important risk factor for developing a number of serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes. In fact, most people with type 2 diabetes have a family member – such as a mother, father, brother, or sister – with the disease.

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) encourages all families to take advantage of family gatherings to share information about their health history – especially when it comes to diabetes.

Knowing your family health history is important because it gives you and your health care team information about your risk for type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

Four Questions You Should Ask Your Family About Diabetes & Family Health History

Knowing your family health history is important. Here are some questions to help you learn more about your family history of diabetes.

  • Does anyone in the family have type 2 diabetes? Who has type 2 diabetes?
  • Has anyone in the family been told they might get diabetes?
  • Has anyone in the family been told they need to lower their weight or increase their physical activity to prevent type 2 diabetes?
  • Did your mother get diabetes when she was pregnant? This is also known as gestational diabetes (GDM).

If the answer to any of these is yes, or you have a mother, father, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes, you may be at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Download and print these questions >

Learn How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes in Your Family >

En español

Family Health History Quiz

1. True or false?   If my parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes, I am at an increased risk to develop type 2 diabetes.

See answer Hide answer

True - A family history of type 2 diabetes is a strong risk factor for the disease. If you have a mother, father, brother, or sister with diabetes, you are at risk for type 2 diabetes. But even if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, there are many things you can do to lower your risk. If you’re overweight, losing five to seven percent of your body weight (for example, 10 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) by exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week and making healthy food choices can help to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Check out these resources for more information:

Small Steps. Big Rewards. Your GAME PLAN to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Small Steps. Big Rewards. Your GAME PLAN to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

(NDEP-60)

This three-booklet package helps people assess their risk for developing diabetes and implement a program to prevent or delay the onset of the disease.

Get Real! You Don't Have to Knock Yourself Out to Prevent Diabetes

Get Real! You Don't Have to Knock Yourself Out to Prevent Diabetes

(NDEP-76)

Tips to help people at risk for type 2 diabetes move more and eat less to lower their risk for diabetes.

See more resources to help you and your family prevent or delay type 2 diabetes >


2. True or false?   My mother has been told by her health care team that she is at high risk for diabetes, or that she has prediabetes, so she will get diabetes very soon.

See answer Hide answer

False - Studies have shown that people at high risk for diabetes or with prediabetes can turn back the clock to delay or even prevent a diagnosis of diabetes by losing five to seven percent of your body weight if overweight (for example, 10 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds). You and your family can lose a modest amount of weight through simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week and making healthy food choices. For some people with prediabetes, intervening early can actually return elevated blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels to the normal range.

Check out these resources for more information:

It’s Not Too Late to Prevent Diabetes

It’s Not Too Late to Prevent Diabetes

(NDEP-75)

This tip sheet includes tips to help older adults at risk for type 2 diabetes move more and eat less to lower their risk for diabetes.

Choose More than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Choose More than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

(NDEP-71)

Tips to help African Americans at risk for type 2 diabetes move more and eat less to lower their risk for diabetes.

See more resources to help you and your family turn back the clock >


3. True or false?   Type 2 diabetes runs in my family, so there is nothing I can do to prevent getting the disease.

See answer Hide answer

False - Even though a family history of type 2 diabetes is a strong risk factor for developing the disease, some of this risk is a result of lifestyle. Being overweight, making unhealthy food choices, and not getting enough exercise can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, losing five to seven percent of your body weight (for example, 10 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) by making healthy food choices and increasing physical activity to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Adopting healthy habits as an individual or as a family is good for everyone.

Check out these resources to help you lower your diabetes risk:

Two Reasons I Find Time to Prevent Diabetes: My Future and Theirs

Two Reasons I Find Time to Prevent Diabetes: My Future and Theirs

(NDEP-74EN)

This resource, available in 16 languages, includes tips to help Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at risk for type 2 diabetes move more and eat less to help lower their risk for diabetes.

Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families. Recipe Booklet

Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families. Recipe Booklet

(NDEP-51)

A bilingual booklet, Tasty Recipes is filled with recipes specifically designed for Latin Americans. Recipes are accompanied by their nutritional facts table. The booklet also includes diabetes health information and resources. This effective, yet practical, educational promotional tool is a terrific addition to any kitchen.

See more resources to help you and your family prevent or delay type 2 diabetes >


4. True or false?   My mother was diagnosed with diabetes when she was pregnant with me so she and I are both at an increased risk for developing diabetes.

See answer Hide answer

True - When a woman gets diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, she is at an increased risk for developing diabetes for the rest of her life. Additionally, her child is at an increased risk for becoming obese and for developing type 2 diabetes for the rest of his or her life. But there are many ways to lower this risk for both mother and child.

Check out these resources to help you lower your diabetes risk:

Did You Have Gestational Diabetes When You Were Pregnant? What You Need to Know.

Did You Have Gestational Diabetes When You Were Pregnant? What You Need to Know.

(NDEP-88)

This tip sheet can help women with a history of gestational diabetes prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and lower their children’s risk for developing the disease.

Power to Prevent: A Family Lifestyle Approach to Diabetes Prevention

Power to Prevent: A Family Lifestyle Approach to Diabetes Prevention

(NDEP-69ENT)

This curriculum can be used by small groups to learn how to make healthy lifestyle changes around food and physical activity to prevent and manage diabetes. There is a CD-ROM with the kit that has files for NDEP materials used together with the curriculum.

See more resources to help you and your family prevent or delay type 2 diabetes >

Learn How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes in Your Family >

 

En español

How to Prevent or Delay Type 2 Diabetes

Nearly 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, a serious disease in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. One out of four people do not know they have diabetes. Many people do not find out they have diabetes until they are faced with serious health problems.

If you have a mother, father, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes, you are at risk for developing the disease. Talking about your family health history may make all the difference when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is found for the first time when a woman is pregnant. Women who have had gestational diabetes may be at increased risk for developing diabetes for the rest of their lives, and the child from that pregnancy is at increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

You can take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes!

Although you cannot change your family health history, knowing about it can give you the information you need to work with your health care team to take action on the things you can change.  If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you can prevent or delay this disease by making important lifestyle changes. If you’re overweight, losing five to seven percent of your body weight (for example, 10 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) can help to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Here are some tips to help you do this:

  • Make healthy food choices, choose water to drink instead of sugary drinks, and eat smaller portions.
  • Be active at least 30 minutes, five days per week to help burn calories and lose weight.
  • Ask family members to be active with you.
  • Write down all the foods you eat and drink and the number of minutes you are active and review it daily to help you reach your goals.

If you had gestational diabetes:

  • Get tested for diabetes six to 12 weeks after your baby is born, and at least every three years after that.
  • Breastfeeding your baby may lower your child’s risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Talk to your doctor if you plan to become pregnant again in the future.
  • Try to reach your pre-pregnancy weight six to 12 months after your baby is born – even if you do not reach your ‘goal’ weight, research shows that a moderate weight loss if you are overweight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce risk.
  • Remember that you are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Follow a healthy lifestyle and encourage your family to join you. Stay at a healthy weight by making healthy food choices and moving more.

By taking these steps to prevent type 2 diabetes, you also are taking steps that can help lower your risk for other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and nerve damage. That’s a big reward for you and your family!

Take the Family Health History Quiz >

En español

Learn what others are doing to manage their diabetes >

Publications

Small Steps. Big Rewards. Your GAME PLAN to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Small Steps. Big Rewards. Your GAME PLAN to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

(NDEP-60)

This three-booklet package helps people assess their risk for developing diabetes and implement a program to prevent or delay the onset of the disease and it includes an activity tracker and a fat and calorie counter.

Choose More than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Choose More than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

(NDEP-71)

This resource includes tips to help African Americans at risk for type 2 diabetes move more and eat less to lower their risk for diabetes.

View more Publications »

Glossary

Type 2 diabetes:

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels are above normal. Type 2 diabetes is diabetes that occurs because the cells in the muscles, liver, and fat do not properly use insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas to help cells process blood glucose into energy. Eventually, the pancreas cannot make enough insulin for the body’s needs. As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood increases while the cells are starved of energy. Over the years, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections, and amputation.

Prediabetes

Prediabetes means you have blood glucose (also call blood sugar) levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Glucose is a form of sugar your body uses for energy. Too much glucose in your blood can damage your body over time. Prediabetes is also called impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).

Gestational Diabetes (GDM)

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is found for the first time when a woman is pregnant. Out of every 100 pregnant women in the United States, three to eight get gestational diabetes. Diabetes means that your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) is too high. Your body uses glucose for energy. But too much glucose in your blood can be harmful. When you are pregnant, too much glucose is not good for your baby. It can lead to complications such as low glucose levels after birth, being born very large and with extra fat, and breathing problems.

Glucose

Glucose is a simple sugar that is needed to fuel your body. Glucose comes from the food you eat. Your body carries glucose through your blood to your cells, where it is changed into energy. If you have diabetes your cells can’t use glucose for energy. Your blood always has some glucose in it, but having too much glucose in your blood is not healthy.

Insulin

Insulin (IN-suh-lin) is a hormone made by an organ called the pancreas that helps the body use glucose for energy. If the pancreas makes little or no insulin or your cells cannot use insulin very well, glucose builds up in your blood and cannot get into your cells. If your blood glucose stays too high, it can damage many parts of the body such as the heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

Pancreas

The pancreas (PAN-kree-as) is an organ that makes insulin and other materials to aid in digestion.

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