Your Family’s Dirty Little Secret…Diabetes?

Women Cooking Thanksgiving Gravy

( — Do you know your family’s health history? Or is it like a secret no one wants to talk about? Many health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, run in families and many people who get the disease actually have one or more family members with it as well.

Family history is closely associated with developing type 2 diabetes later in life. This is especially true in the African-American community since nearly 13% of African Americans over the age of 20 are living with diabetes. And the numbers are still rising. Maybe you have diabetes and are worried about your family members developing the disease, too. CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050, unless something changes.

Diabetes is a serious problem within the African-American community, but there is good news. A study, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), proved that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in those at high risk for the disease.

Knowing the health history of your siblings, parents, and blood relatives is important because it gives you and your health care team information about your risk for developing health problems, such as type 2 diabetes. You can’t change your family history, but knowing about it can help you work with your health care team to take action on things you can change.

Studies have shown that you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your weight, if you are overweight— that’s 10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds. You can lose weight by walking 30 minutes a day for five days a week and choosing healthy foods lower in fat and calories.

Ask around

Talk to your relatives to find out if anyone has diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, tell your family.

Update your health care team on your family history

Talk to your health care team about whether you should be screened for diabetes. It is important to find out early if you have diabetes so you can take steps to manage the disease. People who keep their blood glucose (sugar) as close to normal as possible in the early years after they are diagnosed with diabetes have fewer problems with their eyes, nerves, and kidneys, and fewer heart attacks later in life.

Make a healthy eating plan for the whole family

The plan should include:

  1. Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
  2. Choosing lean meats, poultry without the skin, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  3. Foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

Get Moving

Make physical activity a family affair. Go for a walk, or play soccer, basketball, or tag with your children. Try swimming, biking, hiking, jogging, or any activity that you enjoy. Vary your activities so you don’t get bored.

Don’t family plan to work together to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. If someone in your family has diabetes, ask how family members can support them.