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Diabetes Prevention: It's All in the Family

Every family passes something down - your grandmother's wedding band, Uncle Joe's lucky tackle box, an older brother's clothes. Did you know you can even pass down a tendency to develop diabetes? Family history is one of the leading risk factors for this serious disease. And it isn't all in the genes. Lifestyle plays a decisive role, too.

Photo of mother and daughter preparing food in the kitchen

A growing epidemic

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes. Experts speculate that by 2050 one in three adults in the U.S. could have the condition. This epidemic is spurred in part by a population that's aging and gaining weight. People most at risk for type 2 diabetes are older than age 45, are overweight or obese, and have a close family member with the disease.

The epidemic doesn't stop with adults, though. Type 2 diabetes has taken root among the country's youth. More children are being diagnosed with this disease than ever before. In fact, for the first time ever, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with other health organizations, has released guidelines for treating children with type 2 diabetes.

Why are more children developing the disease? Family history, along with obesity, is at the core. Some people inherit a proclivity for type 2 diabetes. In that way, genetics certainly factors into continuing the diabetes dilemma. But it's also about upbringing. Children tend to learn bad habits, such as shunning physical activity or eating a fat-filled diet, from parents and other close family members.

Not an inevitable disease

Even if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you're not destined to develop the disease. You can do a lot to keep you and your family healthy. It's all about striving for a healthier lifestyle. Sprinkle in some daily physical activity; cook up some nutritious food. Your children will follow your lead, so be a proponent of living diabetes-free.

Here are some tips to get the whole family involved in diabetes prevention:

  • When meal planning, enlist the help of family members. Choose foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar. For instance, avoid eating fried foods, processed meats, soda, and baked desserts.

  • At the grocery store, let your child pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try. Eating more of - and a variety of - such foods, whether fresh or frozen, is a good dietary choice.

  • When cooking at home, skip the salt. Instead, try fresh herbs or other salt-free seasonings. You can even plant a family herb garden for some home-grown cooking.

  • After dinner, don't head straight for the TV room. Take a family walk or bike ride. Play catch or tag outside.

  • While watching TV, work in some exercise. Have a dance competition during commercial breaks. Or count how many pushups each family member can do.

  • On weekends, plan a family outing that includes lots of physical activity. Go for a hike at a state or national park. Head for the beach to swim. Weather not cooperating? Take a stroll through a museum.

Want more ideas on how to prevent type 2 diabetes in your family? This article can help. 

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Diabetes Association - Prevention

National Diabetes Education Program - Tips for Kids: How to Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

March 2013

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