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Diabetes - Genetic Risk Factors for Diabetes

Jul 11, 2008
A combination of factors causes diabetes. These factors are not completely understood and the multiple types of the disease, each with varying risk factors, further cloud the understanding. The most common types are Type 1 and Type 2; approximately 97% of diabetes cases in the United States are one of these two types. A combination of genetic and environmental factors contributes to both types.

Of those, Type 2 is far and away the most common, about 90% of cases.

Obesity is thought to be a major contributor to Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight is a good prototype for a cause since it is itself a combination of genetic background and lifestyle choices. Though the diet opted for and the amount of exercise one chooses to undertake are lifestyle choices, it's still true that some individuals gain or shed weight more easily than others.

But there are many other factors, as well.

A history of diabetes during pregnancy contributes to part of the total risk. Just shy of 40% of women who develop diabetes during pregnancy (a type known as gestational diabetes) will later develop Type 2 diabetes. That typically occurs within 5-10 years after giving birth. Those who give birth to larger babies have a greater risk.

An intolerance of glucose is another factor influenced by genetics. It is logical that glucose intolerance is a contributing factor to Type 2, because this form of diabetes stems from an insufficient use of insulin, rather than a lack of insulin (like Type 1). It is strange that glucose intolerance exists, because glucose in the body's major energy source. Abnormal genes can make strange situations.

Ethnicity plays a role in whether or not an individual will develop Type 2 diabetes, though the reasons are not fully understood. Even after adjusting for lifestyle, Aboriginals, Africans, Latin Americans and some Asian groups are at higher risk. The profile varies between 1.5-2 times the incidence among Caucasians, according to one broad Canadian study. Oddly, though, the risk of Type 1 diabetes is much higher among Caucasians than any other race.

Another risk factor is high blood pressure. Lifestyle choices can cause high blood pressure, but genetics plays a strong role. A positive correlation exists between high blood pressure and the future development of diabetes. High cholesterol is another factor. Like high blood pressure high cholesterol is due to both lifestyle choices and genetic factors. More than 40% of people with diabetes also have high cholesterol.

But simple family medical circumstance is probably the largest genetic risk factor.

People who have a sibling or parent with Type 1 diabetes have as much a 20 times higher risk than average. The newborn of a parent with Type 1 has about a 1 in 25 chance of developing the disease if the mother is younger than 25 when she gives birth. The risk lowers to around the same as the general population if the mother is older than 25. If either parent developed diabetes before age 11, the newborn has about a 10% chance of developing the disease.

The genetic risk factors of contracting diabetes are still an active area of research. Fortunately, while in generations past there was nothing one could do to influence them, modern genetic treatments hold out promise of altering even these odds.
About the Author
Julia Hanf author of the book How To Play the Diabetes Diet Game and Win Through a real life crisis Julia figured out how to live diabetes free. Visit http://www.yourdiabetescure.com and learn more about your solution for diabetes.
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