Diabetes: A Family Matter

Diabetes Prevention

What Is Diabetes Prevention?

Prevention relates to ways an injury, sickness, or a disease can be avoided. When the concern is diabetes, many of the risks can be reduced by changing parts of our lifestyle. Lifestyle has to do with the ways daily habits or routines affect our health. Lifestyle behaviors can lower or increase risks for diabetes and other chronic diseases. A chronic disease is one that does not go away, one that people live with for many years of their life. This is different from an acute illness or one that can often be cured and does not usually last as long as a chronic one.


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Things That Help Prevent Diabetes

  • Choose healthy foods to eat
  • Decrease the size of potions
  • Stop using tobacco
  • Get more active
  • Reduce your dress or pant size
  • Reduce inches off your waist

Diabetes is a chronic disease. It can also put those that have the disease at risk for other chronic diseases like hypertension or high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and others. Diabetes can also lead to other serious conditions when it is not controlled. For example, eye disease, blindness, kidney disease, or nerve damage that leads to an amputation. If a person already has diabetes, healthy lifestyle behaviors can help prevent or delay the onset of other serious conditions. The good news is that things can be done to prevent diabetes and to prevent other problems from happening. While we do not yet know much about ways to prevent type 1 diabetes, we do know that lifestyle changes can help prevent type 2 diabetes.


People in health fields talk about three different kinds of prevention:

  • Primary prevention: These are things we do to lower risks and prevent the disease from happening. An example is teaching people the facts about diabetes risks and helping them change lifestyle behaviors so that the disease can be prevented entirely. If the disease cannot be prevented, it can be delayed so that it occurs at a much later point in time.
  • Secondary prevention: This kind of prevention is aimed at early detection. An example happens when you get your annual physical and the doctor checks your blood for things like your blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol.
  • Tertiary prevention: This form of prevention happens after you already have the disease, but you want to mange it in ways that other problems or complications do not happen. An example is when the doctor suggests that if you lose some extra weight you may have to take less medication. Another example is to keep your numbers in control to prevent other problems like heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, or blindness.

Who is at Risk?

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Do you ever wonder who is at risk for diabetes? Persons with a family history of diabetes are at a greater risk of getting this disease than some others might be. Many parents with this disease worry that their children will get it too. While diabetes can be inherited, it is not yet clearly understood exactly how it happens. Some people in a family may be more likely to get the disease than others because of the kinds of genes they have inherited. In families, people often share the same habits. They eat many of the same foods and often have activity patterns that are much like one another.

In type 1 diabetes, children can inherit risk factors from both parents. It seems that Caucasians or Whites may be at greater risk for this type of diabetes because they tend have the highest disease rates. However, many people who are at risk never get the disease. Researchers think there are some things in the environment that might influence it. For example, some think cold weather may have something to do with it. More cases of type 1 diabetes develop in winter than summer and rates are higher in places with cold climates. A virus may be another trigger for type 1 diabetes. Some think early diet may also play a role because type 1 diabetes is less common in people who were breastfed and those who ate solid foods at later ages. Although some children are born with type 1 diabetes, it most often happens as children get older.

Type 2 diabetes appears to have a greater genetic basis than type 1 diabetes. Americans tend to eat too much fat and carbohydrates, have too little fiber in their diets, and get too little exercise. These things can increase risks for type 2 diabetes. In the United States those with the highest risk for type 2 diabetes are African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Pima Indians. Some research in the Appalachian region has also shown that Caucasian or White people living here may also be at higher risk than many of the rest of the nation’s White people. Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes as is waist size. Being overweight is risky for younger children and teens. It is also a concern for those who have been overweight for a long time.


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