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Is Diabetes Genetic or Acquired? Does Diabetes Run in the Family?

HealthcareOnTime Team 2024-03-05 2024-03-06 3 Min Read
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  • Is Diabetes Genetic or Acquired? Does Diabetes Run in the Family?

    Diabetes can be of several types and might even come and go in different stages of life. There is no one clear reason why the disease occurs. Moreover, it's often called a lifestyle disease as a 2021 study showed that almost 8.4 million people worldwide 1 were seen to be type 1 Diabetes Mellitus patients, and the stats are expected to rise in the years to come. 

    You might be wondering, “Is diabetes genetic?” In short, if the disease runs in your family, you might be likely to get it. This isn't an absolute statement—just because one of your parents has diabetes doesn't make you a victim of it. 

    But yes, you are probably prone to getting it, and taking a diabetes profile test can help you detect it sooner. Here are some facts that you must know to understand which diabetes is genetic. 

    At What Age Does Diabetes Start?

    Diabetes can occur at any age. However, the chances of getting the disease peak at two phases. Type 1 diabetes mostly occurs in children between ages 4-7 years or 10 - 14 years old 2. This is also called juvenile diabetes. Type 2 diabetes mostly occurs among those above the age of 40, but it doesn't mean you can't get it earlier. 

    Which diabetes is hereditary?

    Type 2 diabetes has strong connections with one's genes. Moreover, individuals suffering from gestational diabetes can also acquire Type 2 diabetes if somebody from their family is suffering from the same. However, one can't claim Type 2 diabetes can only be inherited because there are other factors, like lifestyle, etc, that can play a role in acquiring it. 

    Is type 1 diabetes hereditary?

    Though scientists earlier believed Type 1 diabetes is completely genetic, recent research has proven otherwise. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks other cells in your body, leading to various diseases, and Diabetes mellitus is one of them. There have been instances where individuals having a family history of diabetes did not inherit it. However, some researchers have also found that certain proteins in genes can react with one's autoimmune system, increasing the chances of Type 1 diabetes. 

    This does not mean you are not susceptible to this disease if you do not have a family history of the same. Diabetes Mellitus can be caused by lifestyle issues where different conditions can increase your chances of getting it3. Moreover, the symptoms of this disease mostly show up in advanced or moderate stages.

    Hence, the answer to “Is type 1 diabetes genetic?” isn’t as straightforward as most people believe. To detect it soon, it is generally advised to take a random blood sugar test to rule out the possibility. 

    Is type 2 diabetes hereditary?

    Type 2 diabetes can have a hereditary component. While lifestyle factors like diet and exercise play a significant role, having a family history of the condition increases the risk. Genetic predispositions can influence insulin resistance and pancreatic function, contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes across generations.

    Is gestational diabetes genetic?

    Gestational diabetes4 is a kind of diabetes that is detected for the first time when you're pregnant. It is similar to other diabetic traits where your body's ability to use glucose is disturbed. This kind of diabetes generally has a chance of affecting the baby's health, especially if the sugar levels are too high. 

    However, in most cases, gestational diabetes goes away soon after delivery. But that doesn't mean you're free from the threat of all other types of diabetes. In fact, women often develop Type 2 diabetes after their gestational diabetes is cured.

    Does Diabetes Run in the Family?

    You are at a higher risk of getting diabetes if someone from your family has it. However, that is not the only reason why people acquire diabetes. In fact, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that can be acquired in a number of ways. On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes is more closely linked to genetics, meaning if your family members have it, you're more likely to get it as well.

    Diabetes and your genes

    Genes play a role in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. They are as follows:

    The Role of Genetics in Type 2 Diabetes

    Do you think, “Is type 2 diabetes genetic?”

    Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is strongly influenced by genetic factors, so there is significant truth in saying type 2 diabetes is hereditary. Research indicates that individuals with a family history of type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing the condition themselves5. Researchers have found several genetic variants that make some people more likely to get type 2 diabetes, especially those affecting insulin resistance, how well your pancreas works, and glucose metabolism.

    But it's also important to remember that your lifestyle has a big impact on your risk for type 2 diabetes. What you eat and how much you move can greatly influence whether or not you develop the condition, even if you have the genes that make you more susceptible. 

    Getting a type 2 diabetes test is a smart move, especially if you're at higher risk. Checking your blood sugar levels can help you catch the condition early or even prevent it. Taking steps to prevent diabetes is much easier than treating it after it occurs.

    The Role of Genetics in Type 1 Diabetes: Is type 1 diabetes genetic?

    Most people ask, “Is diabetes mellitus genetic?” While type 1 diabetes is primarily considered an autoimmune disorder, genetic factors also contribute to its development. If you have family members with type 1 diabetes, you're more likely to get it, too, showing there's a genetic aspect (hereditary diabetes) to this condition.

    Specific genes associated with immune function and pancreatic beta-cell destruction have been found to strongly interconnect with the occurrence of this kind of diabetes6. However, unlike type 2 diabetes, lifestyle choices have less impact on the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. It's mostly about genetic factors and certain environmental triggers that cause the immune system to mistakenly attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

    What are the Risks of Developing Genetic Diabetes?

    The risk factors for genetic diabetes are complex, involving a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Individuals with a family history of diabetes face an increased risk of developing the condition themselves, particularly if multiple relatives are affected or if the onset occurs at a younger age. 

    Diagnosed diabetes rates were highest among American Indian/Alaska Native adults (13.6%), followed by Black (12.1%), Hispanic (11.7%), Asian (9.1%), and White (6.9%) adults7. But it's not just about genetics—lifestyle factors like obesity, not moving enough, and unhealthy food choices can also play a significant role. These behaviours can add to your genetic risk, making it even more likely that you'll develop diabetes.

    Genetic Testing for Hereditary Diabetes

    Most people wonder, “Can you be born with diabetes?” or “Is diabetes hereditary from mother or father?” While you can inherit from both, there are several ways to detect it. Advancements in genetic testing have made it easier to spot genetic risk factors for diabetes. This type of testing can offer important clues about how likely someone is to develop diabetes based on their genes.

    While genetic testing cannot definitively predict the development of diabetes, it can inform risk assessment and guide preventive measures. Genetic counselling is recommended before and after genetic testing to help individuals understand their results and make informed decisions about managing their risk so their future generations don’t have to worry too much about whether diabetes mellitus is genetic and how severely it affects them.

    How Can You Reduce the Risk of Passing on Diabetes?

    While some hereditary factors might make you prone to genetic diabetes, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting it and passing it to your kids. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is key. Eating a well-balanced diet, staying active with regular exercise, and reducing obesity can help you overcome this if you have a family history of diabetes. 

    If you're planning to start a family, you can also get help from genetic counselling. Additionally, it's important to get tested for diabetes in pregnancy. Early detection can make a big difference, allowing for timely interventions and treatments if necessary.

    Tests for Detecting Diabetes

    If you feel you might be at risk of getting diabetes because of your lifestyle or your genes, it is mandatory to take a few tests annually to check your blood sugar levels. These tests include the following: 

    • Fasting blood sugar test: A fasting blood sugar test checks the glucose concentration in your blood without the intake of food for 8-10 hours. It ideally means skipping your dinner and taking the test in the morning. Your fasting blood sugar level must be less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L), which is considered to be normal. Sugar levels from 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL (5.6 - 6.9 mmol/L) come under the label of prediabetes, and anything higher than this level is said to be diabetic. 
    • Random blood sugar test: Unlike the previous one, you don't have to struggle and starve while taking this test. A random sugar test can be taken at any time of the day. If the blood sugar levels are 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) — 11.1 millimoles per litre (mmol/L) or even higher, you are considered diabetic. 
    • HbA1c test: An HbA1C test is also known as a glycated haemoglobin test, as it checks for the amount of sugar in your haemoglobin. Naturally, the higher the blood sugar levels, the higher its concentration in haemoglobin. This test checks for the presence of sugar in these cells over months, and any count over 6.5% is considered diabetic. 

    Tips for Genetic Diabetes Prevention

    • Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle: Focus on consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine to maintain a healthy weight and improve insulin sensitivity.
    • Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: Stay vigilant about monitoring blood sugar levels, particularly if you have a family history of diabetes. Early detection and intervention can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes-related complications. 
    • Manage Stress: Chronic stress can contribute to insulin resistance and exacerbate diabetes risk. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation exercises to promote overall well-being.
    • Get Regular Checkups: Schedule regular health checkups with your healthcare provider to assess your diabetes risk factors and monitor any changes in your health status. Early detection and intervention are key to preventing diabetes and its complications.
    • Educate Yourself: Stay informed about diabetes risk factors, symptoms, and preventive measures. Empower yourself with knowledge to make informed decisions about your health and well-being.
    • Measure your glucose intake: This might be difficult if you're a foodie, but getting diabetic doesn't mean you can't eat any of your favourite foods. Instead, you must check your calories and balance them in your diet. Taking fruits and veggies is a must. However, be careful to have the fruits prescribed for diabetic patients so that you don't outdo the glucose intake. 

    In conclusion, while genetic predisposition plays a significant role in the development of diabetes, it is not deterministic. By adopting a proactive approach to health and implementing preventive strategies, individuals can mitigate their risk of diabetes and promote overall well-being.


    Ref Links: 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Is diabetes Preventable?

    Yes, diabetes can be prevented or avoided by doing the following: 

    1. Adopting a healthy lifestyle
    2. Eating a balanced diet
    3. Reducing stress and anxiety
    4. Taking regular tests and checkups

    Is diabetes curable?

    There's no absolute cure for diabetes. However, its impact can be reduced, and your blood sugar levels can be controlled through healthy eating, measuring calories and sugar intake, regular exercising, and following a disciplined lifestyle.

    Does diabetes get worse as you age?

    You might be thinking is diabetes hereditary or acquired with age? Diabetes doesn't directly have a connection with ageing. However, as you age, you might be prone to other conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can make controlling diabetes difficult.


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