The Genetics of Diabetes and What You Can Do About It

is diabetes genetic


As someone with prediabetes or high risk for type 2 diabetes, and as a Lark DPP user, you have already learned a great deal about weight loss, physical activity, and lowering risk for diabetes. A lot of the focus of prediabetes and diabetes is on these and other modifiable risk factors, or factors that you can do something about. As the Lark DPP check-in pointed out, genes can also play a role. Here is more about how genes may affect diabetes risk and what you can do about it.

The Role of Genetics in Diabetes


Do one or both of your parents have type 2 diabetes? Did one or more of your grandparents develop it at some point, or do any of your siblings, aunts, uncles, or cousins have it? It is not surprising if you have relatives with diabetes, since it does appear to have genetic components. Gene-related, or non-lifestyle, risk factors that may have contributed to developing prediabetes and putting you at higher risk for diabetes, include being of African-American, Asian-American, Pacific Island, Native American, or Hispanic-American ethnicity.

Scientific studies have delved deeper into the link between genes and diabetes risk. Researchers have identified a number of genes that may affect risk for diabetes. It is easy to find out whether you have high or normal risk for diabetes by taking a genetic test from 23andMe. The test:

  • Is painless and requires only a saliva sample
  • Gives results in 3 to 5 weeks
  • Lets you know other health and genetic information, such as whether you are a carrier for certain genetic disorders or whether you have higher than normal risk for certain conditions

You may even be eligible for Lark coaching with genetic-personalized coaching based on 23andMe results.

The Power of Lifestyle Changes


Being born with genes that put you at higher risk does not mean that you will get diabetes. Lifestyle changes, including habits you may develop when using Lark DPP, can still be effective at lowering risk. For example, exercising raises insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar regardless of whether genes or other factors caused insulin resistance and high blood sugar. Similarly, losing weight, getting enough sleep, and eating a nutritious diet all support lower blood sugar and lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Get Healthy Together


Do others in your family share a genetic risk for diabetes? Are there members of your family with prediabetes or diabetes? Then why not work together to live healthy? Healthy living, along with lower blood sugar, can be a family trait that you choose.

As a family, you can:

  • Cook healthy meals together when you have time
  • Walk together if you live close together, or plan to be on the phone with each other while walking if you live far apart
  • Take turns cooking and sharing healthy dishes so each person or household needs to cook less frequently
  • Choose more active outings, such as going to the zoo instead of the movies
  • Select restaurants that have healthier options when you are going out to eat as a family
  • Take turns with duties such as child care and grocery shopping to free up time for working out
  • Support each other’s health journey with encouragement, tips, and check-ins
  • Remind each other to use Lark DPP for tips, logging, and support

Prediabetes and diabetes can be family matters, and that can work in your favor. Healthy lifestyle behaviors can lower your risk, and your entire family can work together to make any necessary changes to keep blood sugar down and lower diabetes risk. 

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Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health

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