Diabetes: All in the Family

The color of your hair and eyes, whether you’re right- or left-handed, dimples—these traits run in families. Unfortunately, so does type 2 diabetes.

Although you can choose your friends, you can’t choose your family history or your genes. If a parent or brother or sister has type 2 diabetes, you’re more likely to develop the disease yourself. And that means there’s a good chance that you’ll also develop heart disease.

It’s not entirely clear how the two diseases affect each other, but having type 2 diabetes puts you in the same cardiac danger zone as someone who’s already had a heart attack and is likely to have another.

“But even with a family history of type 2 diabetes, there’s no way to predict your risk accurately, although it seems that being overweight brings out the genetic tendency to develop the disease,” says endocrinologist Robert H. Eckel, M.D., past president of the American Heart Association. “If you’re at your ideal weight, don’t gain any more. If you weigh too much, work with your doctor to lose the extra pounds.”

Bottom Line:

  • If type 2 diabetes runs in your family, get tested.
  • Keep your weight in check.
  • Map your family’s health history. Log on to the American Heart Association’s Family History Tree Document at www.americanheart.org/diabetes

    “Learn what’s going on with your body. See your doctor for regular checkups no matter how much you hate making that appointment.”

    –Randy Jackson

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