by Valerie Schaibley
Your family history can help find many diseases that you may be prone to – cancer, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. Diabetes is a growing medical concern in the U.S. As of 2012, 9.3% of the U.S. population had diabetes. Even more concerning is that the frequency of diabetes is growing in children and adolescents.
How does diabetes work in the body?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body can no longer control the amount of sugar in the bloodstream (blood sugar). Normally, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin that helps shuttle sugar from your bloodstream into your cells to be converted into energy. People who have type 2 diabetes have a problem with how their body makes and responds to insulin. Cells start becoming resistant to insulin, preventing sugar from being transported into the cells. At the same time, the pancreas reacts by trying to make more and more insulin. Over time, the pancreas stops being able to keep up with the body’s insulin demands, and the level of sugar in the blood increases.
What are the risk factors?
Whether or not you develop diabetes depends on many different risk factors. There are some aspects of your diabetes risk that you can’t control, like your age and family history. However, you may have other diabetes risk factors that you can do something about, like maintaining a healthy weight, increasing your physical activity and eating a healthy diet. Even if you have a strong family history of diabetes, taking action to reduce other diabetes risk factors can help lower your risk of diabetes.
Here are three sensible steps to preventing diabetes.
Losing weight can significantly help reduce your risk of diabetes. Being overweight or obese is a strong risk factor for diabetes. If you’re overweight, losing just five to seven percent of your body weight can help reduce your diabetes risk.
Increasing your physical activity can also help lower your diabetes risk. Just 30 minutes a day, several times a week can help.
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of diabetes. Try decreasing your intake of fatty foods and focusing on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Try some of these healthy recipes from the American Heart Association to jump-start your healthy-eating plan.
Valerie Schaibley, PhD, is a science writer living in Seattle, Washington. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from Purdue University and her PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Michigan.
TapGenes Take Away: It’s not simple and it requires commitment, but you can break the cycle of diabetes in your family with these three sensible steps.
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