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You Are More Likely To Get Type 2 Diabetes If It Runs In Your Family, But There Are Ways To Reduce The Risk

Singapore has one of the highest incidences of diabetes among developed countries, second only to the United States. [1] About 9% of the adult population in Singapore have diabetes. [2]

Therein lies the million dollar question: Are you more susceptible if you have a family history of diabetes?

A reader from the DxD community wanted to find out if she can avoid getting diabetes, in spite of her strong family history risk factor. She has multiple relatives with the disease. 

Dr Abel Soh, a Singaporean endocrinologist, responded with an in-depth explanation of what it means to develop diabetes, especially when it runs in the family. Here's what he had to share.

There are two types of diabetes

Most of us are aware that diabetes happens when there's too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. However, not many people realise that there are actually 2 different types of diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes

type 2 diabetes singapore

Dr Abel revealed that Type 2 diabetes mellitus is the most common type of diabetes. Up to 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. 

What is type 2 diabetes?

type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body is not able to use insulin properly. This is known as insulin resistance. Initially, your pancreas works harder to make extra insulin to make up for it.

However, over time, it won't be able to keep up to make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose levels normal. When that happens, the glucose will build up in the blood instead of going into cells. [3]

Obesity can cause insulin resistance

type 2 diabetes

A sedentary lifestyle that lacks exercise or physical activity reduces one's energy expenditure, promotes weight gain, and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Genetics play a big part in type 2 diabetes 

genetics type 2 diabetes

Dr Abel confirms that if you have one first-degree relative (like a parent or sibling) with type 2 diabetes, the chances of you developing type 2 diabetes may increase 2 to 3 times. 

What if both your parents have type 2 diabetes?

If both your mother and father have type 2 diabetes, you are 5 to 6 times more likely you get type 2 diabetes.

You can't choose your genetics but you can choose your lifestyle

Although heredity (genetics) is something that we cannot change, lifestyle/environmental risk factors can be modified to reduce your risk of developing diabetes.

unhealthy diet type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle/environmental factors that increase one's risk of having diabetes include:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise or physical activity
  • Being overweight or obese

Cut back on the meat

less meat type 2 diabetes

You've probably heard that sugar-sweetened beverages and certain processed foods could lead to diabetes, Dr Abel thought it was worth mentioning that dietary consumption of red meat and processed meat is just as bad. [4]

Greens can help reduce the risk of diabetes

healthy diet for type 2 diabetes

Instead of a hearty steak, it's best to focus on the consumption of a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and olive oil. These wholesome foods have been associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.

A healthy lifestyle will go a long way 

exercise type 2 diabetes

In order to avoid getting diabetes even if you have a family history of diabetes, you should do the following:

  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Exercising regularly - at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight - body mass index of less than 23 kg/m2

Article medically reviewed by Dr Abel Soh. 


References: 

 1. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/spores-war-on-diabetes

 2. http://www.diabetes.org.sg/resources.html

 3. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-2/facts-about-type-2.html 

 4. https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/news/eating-meat-linked-higher-risk-diabetes

214 views 4 Jan 2019 Medically reviewed by Dr Abel Soh, last update on 4 Jan 2019
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