Diabetes – Is it hereditary?
We know diabetes results from wrong lifestyle choices, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive consumption of fat and carbohydrates etc. But there are other factors that make diabetes possible – factors that we cannot control, unlike lifestyle choices!
There is no direct correlation between a particular gene and the occurrence of diabetes. It is usually a bunch of factors that come together along with genetic mutations to increase the possibility of getting diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
As mentioned before, there is no ‘type 1 diabetes gene’ that decides whether you get the disorder or not. It is a game of roles: with one influencing the result more than another. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys the cells that make insulin. The proteins used by the immune system to keep the body healthy are produced by the HLA genes. This makes it evident that genes are of great importance when it comes to type 1 diabetes. The version of HLA gene that you get from your parents determines your likelihood of getting type 1 diabetes.
The occurrence of genes also depends on ethnicity and race. For e.g., white people are more likely to have type 1 diabetes. However, likelihood doesn’t always decide whether or not you get diabetes. Even the presence of these genes does not mean that you will end up having diabetes for sure.
Type 2 diabetes
This is not an autoimmune disorder. Factors that cause type 2 diabetes include obesity and sedentary lifestyle, among several others. Genetics is also one of the many factors. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is close to 50% if both your parents are diabetic. If one parent was diagnosed before 50, your chances are 1 in 7, and if the diagnosis was after 50, your chances of getting it are 1 in 13.
Many gene mutations are known to affect type 2 diabetes. These include the genes that determine the production of glucose, production of insulin, and how glucose levels are sensed in the body.
Since a lot of this possibility also depends on lifestyle choices, the environment becomes inseparable from family habits. This is because family traditions and eating habits form a major part of the environment, in turn, influencing your own lifestyle. Therefore, it can get difficult to find one root cause of your diabetes.
Testing can be done to detect the gene mutations linked to type 2 diabetes. However, tests for other factors can give more accurate pointers. These include BMI (body mass index), blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol, gestational diabetes, etc. Certain ethnicities like Hispanic, African-American, or Asian-American are at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Although genetics are not in your control, other factors can indeed be monitored to prevent diabetes. Lifestyle changes can protect you from getting diabetes even if you are at risk due to genetic factors. Some things that can be done to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes are:
- Increase physical activity. Warm up by slowly incorporating activities that require physical movement into your routine. Once you get into the groove, start weight-training and cardiovascular exercises. Losing weight is a huge plus in the fight against diabetes.
- Stick to a diabetes diet. Avoid carbohydrates and excess calories. Try to cook most of your meals and keep your stock of groceries ready so that you’re not tempted to dine out.
- Snack healthy, and avoid sweet, sugary or deep-fried foods. You can try nuts, carrot sticks, popcorn (unsalted and unbuttered), whole-grain crackers, etc.
If you’re at risk, make sure you get tested regularly for glucose and cholesterol levels, at trusted diagnostics centres like Apollo Diagnostics. Even if the genes are against you, you don’t have to give up the fight.