Diabetes Mellitus


Written by StopDiabetes

Do type 1 and type 2 diabetes run in families?

According to the American Diabetes Association and research on genetics, type 1 diabetes does seem to have a genetic component. In other words, a person’s particular genetic makeup means that he or she is more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, especially under certain conditions. Research also indicates that many people with type 2 diabetes have a genetic predisposition to the disease—more so than a person with type 1 diabetes. The risk of developing diabetes is also based on such factors as aging; whether the person has an inactive lifestyle; and/or if he/she becomes overweight or obese. (For more about genetics and diabetes, see the chapter “Other Types of Diabetes.”)

What are some statistical chances of getting diabetes within families?

Like most data in science, the statistics about a person’s chance of developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes is often dependent on the research study. For example, one organization states that if a brother, sister, son, or daughter has diabetes, the chance of an immediate relation contracting type 1 diabetes is 10 percent; if the mother has type 1, the chance is 2 percent, and if the father does, 6 percent. For type 2, if a brother or sister has type 2, the chances of a relation’s having type 2 diabetes is 25 percent; a mother or father having it gives a chance of 12 percent; both the mother and father, the chance is 50 percent; and if an identical twin has type 2 diabetes, the chance is 90 percent.
But not everyone agrees. Still another group, the Harvard School of Public Health, states that if a parent, sister, son, or daughter has type 1 diabetes, the risk of an immediate relation developing type 1 diabetes is 10 to 20 times that of the general population, with the risk going from one in 100 to one in ten depending on which family member has diabetes and when he or she developed it. In addition, their studies indicate that if a mother has diabetes, the risk of a child developing type 1 diabetes is lower than if the father has the disease (around 10 percent chance of getting type 1 diabetes if the father has it). But if the mother has type 1 diabetes and is age 25 or younger when the child is born, the risk is reduced by 4 percent; if the mother is over age 25, the risk drops to one in 100, or around the same as the average American. Thus, statistics and chances of developing type 1 and type 2 are extremely dependent on the conditions surrounding the person who develops the disease—and especially the scientific group or study!

Which ethnic, racial, or cultural groups are more prone to type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the United States?

There is a difference among groups who seem to be more prone to type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In particular, it is thought that white people of northern European heritage are more prone to type 1 diabetes than members of other ethnic and racial groups. Other groups also have their share of diabetes diagnoses. According to the American Diabetes Association, the following ethnic, racial, or cultural groups in the United States have various percentages of diagnosed diabetes:

  • Ethnic or racial backgrounds: 7.6% of non-Hispanic whites; 9.0% of Asian Americans; 12.8% of Hispanics; 13.2% of non-Hispanic blacks; 15.9% of American Indians or Alaskan Natives.
  • Asian Americans: 4.4% of Chinese; 11.3% of Filipinos; 13% of Asian Indians; 8.8% of other Asian Americans.
  • Hispanic background (adults): 8.5% of Central and South Americans; 9.3% of Cubans; 13.9% of Mexican Americans; 14.8% of Puerto Ricans.

Which countries have the most cases of diabetes, and which have the highest rates as a percentage of the countries’ overall population?

Many organizations present various numbers and results concerning diabetes around the world. And no matter which organizations find what results, the underlying message is clear: Diabetes is very prevalent all over the world. For example, according to the International Diabetes Federation, China, India, and the United States have the most cases of diabetes. Several islands in the Pacific Ocean have the most rates of prevalence, or in other words, the highest rates of diabetes cases as a percentage of the country’s overall population. For instance, around 37.5 percent of the population of Tokelau (northeast of Fiji) has diabetes; Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Micronesia all have higher-thanaverage rates of diabetes cases. In addition, Southeast Asia has nearly one-fifth (20 percent) of the global diabetes cases (and it is estimated that almost 50 percent of the population has not been formally diagnosed). Many of these countries are growing, and the availability and consumption of foods has changed (including more imported foods being eaten). As a result, many researchers believe diabetes is prevalent in these countries because of a growing obesity problem.

Of course, as with all statistics, other organizations find different results in their studies. For example, the World Health Organization notes that in 2014, half of adults around the world with diabetes lived in five countries: China, India, the United States, Brazil, and Indonesia, and noted that the rates doubled for men in India and China between the years 1980 to 2014. They also found that northwestern Europe has the lowest rates of diabetes among both women and men, with age-adjusted prevalence lower than 4 percent for women and around 5 to 6 percent for men in Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Why is it sometimes difficult for health care professionals to treat a person who has diabetes?

For health care professionals (and even friends and family who try to help a person with the disease), it is often difficult to help a person with diabetes. The difficulty is not because of the disease itself, but because so many people are in denial and unwilling to accept that they have diabetes. Often, it is because there can be few symptoms, so the person does not believe the risks from diabetes actually exist. Other times, they don’t have (or don’t know how to find) the support they need to cope with the disease, both physically and emotionally. And still others are not willing to—or cannot without help—make lifestyle changes to manage their diabetes. (For suggestions on coping and getting help for diabetes, see the chapter “Coping with Diabetes,” and for those with and without access to the Internet and apps, see the chapter “Resources, Websites, and Apps.”)

Who should be tested for diabetes?

Everyone should be tested for diabetes, especially if there are any symptoms of the disease or if someone in the family has diabetes—no matter what age. Overall, the American Diabetes Association recommends that all adults be tested beginning at age 45.

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