What you need to know about family and diabetes to help loved ones and check your risk

Diabetes is a condition that affects the whole family, and not just because of genetics.

Managing type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes is a lot to handle. There can be medication and blood sugar monitoring, as well as careful eating, exercise and regular doctor’s appointments.

And, if one of your family members has diabetes, you can be at higher risk of developing the condition yourself.

In this article, we’ve looked at what you need to know to help loved ones living with diabetes and check your own risk.

Managing diabetes is a lot to handle. Find out what you need to know to help loved ones and check your own risk #diabetes #family #health Click To Tweet


Genetic factors and diabetes

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are complex conditions that don’t have a single cause.

However, genetic factors make some people more vulnerable to diabetes, particularly type 2.

A research review by Diabetes NSW has shown that if someone in your family has type 2 diabetes, you’re at increased risk of also developing the condition.

The review found:

  • If you have one parent with diabetes you have double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while both parents increase the risk up to six times.
  • If you have a brother or sister with type 2 diabetes, the risk increases more than four times.
  • The closer the relative, the greater the risk and the more relatives with type 2 diabetes then the greater the odds for other family members. 
  • Having three or more relatives with the condition can increase the risk almost 15 times.

Research also suggests children of women who have gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing diabetes as they grow up.

In some studies, diabetes risk was up to four times higher for these children.

Rates of gestational diabetes in Australia are rapidly increasing. And, having gestational diabetes during pregnancy also puts women at a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Genetic factors make some people more vulnerable to diabetes, particularly type 2 #diabetes #familyhistory #health Click To Tweet


Family lifestyle and diabetes

Another risk factor associated with diabetes is your family lifestyle.

While type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that relates to the destruction of cells in the pancreas, the more common type 2 diabetes is often linked to lifestyle factors.

Being overweight or obese and having a sedentary lifestyle (not enough physical activity) increases the risk of type 2 diabetes because the body can find it more difficult to regulate blood sugar levels.

Research from the United Kingdom and the United States has also found obese and overweight adults are more likely to have a family history of diabetes.

Do you have an active family lifestyle? A sedentary lifestyle is a key risk factor for type 2 #diabetes #health #family Click To Tweet


Help and support for families dealing with diabetes

If one of your family members has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you may need to adjust to some new routines.

You may need to help them – or support them – to establish a routine for blood glucose monitoring and injections (if needed), make regular doctors’ appointments and make dietary and other lifestyle changes. They may also be dealing with rapid changes in their blood sugar levels as well, until these stabilise.

With all of the things to check and remember, supporting or caring for someone with diabetes can put a lot of pressure on family and relationships.

However, it’s important to view diabetes as a manageable condition that needs daily care and attention. It shouldn’t take over your life.

Diabetes Australia lists some helpful guidelines for carers and families, which include:

  • Build trust, not dependence: while you’re there to support your loved one, it’s important for them to maintain their independence.
  • Know your personal limits: you must look after yourself as well, so have a plan in place to hand over to others when it’s needed.
  • It’s their condition: no one can understand diabetes better than those who live with it every day.

To find out more information about family and carer support in your state, contact your local diabetes organisation.

Caring for someone with diabetes can put a lot of pressure on families and relationships #diabetes #health #family Click To Tweet


How to reduce your family’s risk

Because type 2 diabetes is known to run in families – along with other conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease – it’s important to learn as much as you can about the health history of your relatives.

You can also check your risk of pre-diabetes (the precursor to type 2 diabetes) with a simple blood test.

Pre-diabetes happens when your average blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as having diabetes.

One of the key ways to find out about and manage your blood glucose levels is with an HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) blood test.

An HbA1c test shows your average blood glucose levels over the past eight to 12 weeks.

You can do this test via a traditional needle-in-vein blood test at a pathology collection centre, or via MyHealthTest’s at-home fingerprick test service.

And, the good news is, if you know you have pre-diabetes, you may be able to lower the risk of your condition progressing.

Diabetes prevention programs have shown that when people make healthier food choices, drop their body weight by 5-10% and walk for about 30 minutes a day most days of the week, they lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 50%.

Know your #familyhistory and check your risk of prediabetes (the precursor to type 2) with a simple blood test #diabetes #family #health Click To Tweet


It’s World Diabetes Day on November 14 and we have a special promotion to help you and your family members check your risk. Find out more.


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World Diabetes Day Special

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