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Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Spotted and Treated Early With Help of Family Health History

Gathering a family health history can put its members on the lookout for and seek early treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Why it's important

Family history of disease is an important part of understanding an individual's risk for developing a number of serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease that if left untreated can lead to other serious health problems, including blindness, loss of limb, kidney failure, heart disease and early death. Most people with type 2 diabetes have a family member - perhaps a mother, a father, a brother, or a sister - with the disease.

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) encourages all families to gather their health history to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in future generations.

By knowing one's family health history, sharing it with one's healthcare team, and taking important steps, one  can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes (as well as other serious diseases) and help ensure that one will be enjoying one's family for years to come. Those important steps might include maintaining a healthy weight or losing a small amount of weight if one is overweight, making healthful food choices and being physically active.

Four questions one should ask

The answers to these questions could help one prevent type 2 diabetes:

* Does anyone in the family have type 2 diabetes? Who has type 2 diabetes?
* Has anyone in the family been told he or she might get diabetes?
* Has anyone in the family been told he or she needs to lower weight or increase physical activity to prevent type 2 diabetes?
* Did one's mother get diabetes when she was pregnant? This is also known as gestational diabetes (GDM).

If the answer to any of these quetions is yes, or if one has a mother, a father, a brother or a sister with type 2 diabetes, one may be at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. One should talk with one's doctor and visit to learn more about managing the risk and preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes.

One's history affects one's child's future

While one is gathering one's family's history, one needs to take one's own into consideration as well.

Gestational diabetes mellitus, or GDM, is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and affects about 7% of all U.S. pregnancies - or about 200,000 pregnancies each year. If one had gestational diabetes when one was pregnant, both mother and child have a lifelong risk for getting diabetes.

* Women with a history of gestational diabetes have a 40% 60% percent chance of developing diabetes in the five to 10 years after delivery.
* The children of pregnancies where the mother had gestational diabetes are also at increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
* Women who have had gestational diabetes should be tested for diabetes six to 12 weeks after their baby is born, and at least every three years after that. Mothers should let their child's doctor know that they had gestational diabetes.
* Women with a history of gestational diabetes can lower their risk for developing diabetes by making an effort to reach and maintain a healthy weight, making healthy food choices and being active for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. Keeping a healthy lifestyle helps mother and child lower their risk for getting diabetes in the future.

For a free tip sheet on gestational diabetes, including steps to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, call the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) at 1-888-693-NDEP (6337) or visit its Web site at

Type 2 diabetes-risk factors

In addition to family history and gestational diabetes, other factors increase one's risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

If one or more of the following items apply, an individual should be sure to talk with his or her healthcare team about the risk for developing type 2 diabetes and whether the individual should be tested:

* I am 45 years of age or older.
* I have been told by my doctor to lose weight.
* My family background is African-American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander.
* I have been told that my blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than normal.
* My blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, or I have been told that I have high blood pressure.
* My cholesterol (lipid) levels are not normal. My HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) is less than 35 or my triglyceride level is higher than 250.
* I am physically active less than three times a week.
* I have been told that I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
* The skin around my neck or in my armpits appears dirty no matter how much I scrub it. The skin appears dark, thick and velvety.
* I have been told that I have blood-vessel problems affecting my heart, brain or legs.

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