With 29 million Americans living with Type 2 diabetes and another 3 million living with Type 1 diabetes, you are probably aware of someone trying to manage this complex condition, if you are not yourself. You may be wondering why some people develop diabetes and others do not and what risk your children have of developing diabetes in their lifetimes. Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear. While we know the risk factors for both types of diabetes, some who may be considered at-risk never develop the condition, while others do. However, you can take a proactive role in reducing that risk.
Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes have different causes. Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, resulting in little to no insulin. In most cases, people with Type 1 diabetes inherited the risk from both of their parents. However, triggers like colder weather, virus and diet early in life, such as breastfeeding or lack thereof, play a role. Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus) is the result of the body's inability to make enough, or to properly use, insulin. Family history and lifestyle play an important role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. People at high-risk of developing Type 2 diabetes can work with their health care provider on lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, to reduce their risk.
When it comes to your children’s risk for diabetes, you can help reduce that risk even before birth. A mother’s health and diet before and during pregnancy can influence her or the baby’s health later in life. If the mother has diabetes before pregnancy or develops gestational diabetes during pregnancy, when not properly managed, the baby is at an increased risk of becoming overweight and developing diabetes as a young adult. Research indicates that children who are breastfed, when the mother has diabetes during pregnancy, are less likely to develop diabetes later in life, than babies born to these mothers who are formula fed. This is especially influential in the first weeks of life.
When a family member is living with the task of managing diabetes on a daily basis, the entire family is affected. This is a complex condition, requiring close management by the patient, their health care provider and caregiver to help prevent complications and help improve quality of life.
For more educational resources, we have produced a series of Healthy Steps videos for anyone living with diabetes to help answer some common questions like:
To watch more videos on these topics and others, please visit here and search by topic including “diabetes”, “nutrition” and “diabetes management”.