Does a family history of type 2 diabetes mean that I will get it?

Lifestyle is often blamed for the increased number of people with type 2 diabetes. We’re moving less and eating more, with our lives becoming increasing reliant on technology and, affordable, tasty food is always available. And no doubt, our modern lifestyles have a huge role to play, but they’re not the only reason someone does, or doesn’t get diabetes.

We regularly have clients come to the clinic who are a healthy weight, with quite advanced type 2 diabetes. It can be extremely difficult for them to understand why they have been diagnosed, with what is often referred to as a ‘lifestyle disease’.

Many people are not aware that our genes can increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These amazing proteins who makes us who we are, also have a profound effect on our health. Along with heart disease, certain types of cancers, your genetic predisposition can influence more than just your eye and hair colour. If your grandparents or parents carried certain genetic markers, or were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, then you’re likely to be at an increased risk of developing diabetes as well.

Where we store our fat and how much fat we can store, before becoming sick is related to genetics. Fat storage, particularly around the tummy is generally more biologically active, producing hormones and other chemicals leading to inflammation. Increased amounts of abdominal fat can cause insulin resistance, which is the first step towards the development of type 2 diabetes. So even though someone might be a healthy weight, their genetics may have led them to store more of the fat they do have, in a problem area. They may also need less fat to trigger a cascade of signals in the body leading to insulin resistance.

If you know you’re at increased risk, due to your genetics, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk or, prevent progression of pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes.

  1. Chat to your GP about an early referral to an Endocrinologist
  2. – This is a specialist diabetes doctor and they are able to recommend the best prevention strategy for you.
  3. Diet and exercise are important, particularly to assist in reducing waist circumference
  4. – It is recommended that women should have a waist circumference less that 80cm (32 inches) and men less than 90cm (36 inches).
  5. Talk to your family, they share your gene pool, so it’s important they’re aware too.
  6. Children and grandchildren should learn healthy habits from a young age, these might include cooking and lunch box preparation, as well as regular sport and outdoor play.

If you want to learn more about diabetes, we have dedicated information pages:

Please see the following articles for more information: