Family Risk of Diabetes
The National Diabetes Education Program, a joint program of NIH and the CDC, translates the science and spreads the word that diabetes is serious, common, and costly, yet controllable and, for type 2, preventable. Studies show that people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight, if they are overweight—that's 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.
Balintfy: Diabetes is more prevalent among certain high-risk groups and can run in families. It affects nearly eight percent of the U.S. population.
Dr. Rodgers: There are approximately 24 million Americans over the age of 20 that have diabetes in this country.
Balintfy: Dr. Griffin Rodgers is the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Dr. Rodgers: And of that number, roughly six million of them are unaware that they have diabetes. Now, more sobering though, is that there are 57 million Americans, again, over the age of 20, that have a condition called pre-diabetes.
Balintfy: Dr. Rodgers explains that pre-diabetes is a condition in which the blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to give someone a diagnosis of diabetes. He adds that oftentimes, pre-diabetes may be asymptomatic—or have no symptoms.
Dr. Rodgers: And that's why it's so important to know whether one has a family history of diabetes. So if one has a parent or a brother or a sister, or a first degree relative like an aunt or uncle that has a diagnosis of diabetes, that's important to know, and that should be relayed to one's health care professional.
Balintfy: Dr. Rodgers says that certain ethnic and racial groups are at higher risk for having pre-diabetes and developing diabetes. These groups include African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Dr. Rodgers: But it's also important to realize that in this country, about nine percent of women who go through a normal pregnancy will develop what's called gestational diabetes.
Balintfy: Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is found for the first time when a woman is pregnant. It goes away after her child is born, but increases her risk for having diabetes later. Dr. Rodgers adds that the infant born to a mother with gestational diabetes is also at higher risk of developing diabetes later in their life. He says this is just one risk factor.
Dr. Rodgers: So family history is important, being from a certain racial and ethnic group is important, certainly patients who are inactive or overweight are at greater risk, individuals who are older, for example, over 45 years of age, are also at higher risk of having pre-diabetes, and those are important factors that should be discussed with one's health care provider.
Balintfy: Dr. Rodgers points out that an important study, the Diabetes Prevention Trial, showed that individuals who have pre-diabetes and are at high risk for developing diabetes can delay the onset of diabetes by making modest lifestyle changes, and loosing five to seven percent of their body weight.
Dr. Rodgers: So there are action steps that one can take, fairly modest lifestyle changes, if one is in these high risk groups, one has a family history, they should let their health care provider know about it, have them tested to determine whether they have pre-diabetes, and there are positive steps that one can take, modest steps that one can take to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
Balintfy: For more information on pre-diabetes and reducing diabetes risk, visit www.YourDiabetesInfo.org. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.