Thursday, February 28, 2008

Diabetes - The Inherited Risks

The causes of diabetes are complicated and only partially comprehended. And complicating the picture even farther is the reality that there are multiple types, all with their own risk factors.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the two basic across-the-board diagnosis with some 97% or more of cases in the U.S. Both Types 1 and 2 result from a combination of environmental and hereditary influences.

Of those, Type 2 diabetes is by far the more common, and represents approximately 90% of diabetics.

Obesity is considered to be a leading contributor to Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight makes a good prototype since it's a combining of hereditary background and life-style choices. Although the preferred diet and the measure of physical exercise one decides to take on are life-style choices, it's still factual that a few individuals gain or drop weight a lot easier than others.

But on that point there are more factors to developing diabetes -

Unfortunately many pregnant women discover they have developed a particular type of diabetes as a consequence of pregnancy. A history of diabetes during pregnancy contributes greatly to the chance of developing diabetes after giving birth. Roughly 40% of women who acquire diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) will later on develop Type 2 diabetes. That generally comes about within 5-10 years after giving birth. Those who give birth to heavier babies experience a bigger risk.

Glucose intolerance is an additional hereditary element. Because Type 2 diabetes results not by underproduction of insulin (as in Type 1) but by insufficient use of it, it should not be surprising that glucose intolerance is a contributive circumstance. That glucose intolerance should exist is baffling enough, because it is a major source of the body's energy. But hereditary anomalies bring about some strange situations.

Ethnicity plays a part in whether or not a person will develop Type 2 diabetes, although the reasons are not fully understood. Even after adapting for life-style, Aboriginals, Africans, Latin Americans and some Asians are at higher risk. The profile varies between 1.5-2 times the relative incidence among Caucasians, reported to one broad Canadian study. Curiously, though, the risk of Type 1 diabetes is a great deal higher among Caucasians than any other race.

High blood pressure increases the likelihood, too. That once again is part of life-style (mainly, dieting and exercising) choice but it's a strong genetical aspect also. On that point, there's a strong correlation that those with high blood pressure could also develop diabetes. Likewise, high cholesterol levels step-up the risk. Over 40% of those with diabetes have got higher than normal levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Family medical history is in all likelihood the biggest hereditary risk factor for diabetes.

A person with a parent or sibling who has Type 1 diabetes has a risk 10-20 times higher than average. For a newborn infant with a parent who has Type 1 diabetes the likelihood is 1 in 25, or 4% if the mother gives birth earlier than age 25. Past the age of 25, the risk is 1%, almost the equivalent as the general population. The likelihood rises over again to almost 10% if either parent contracted diabetes earlier than age 11.

The hereditary risk factors of contracting diabetes are still an active area of research. Luckily, while in generations ago there was nothing one could do to influence these factors, but advanced genetic treatments hold out hope of changing even these odds with diabetes.

Charles Thompkins
Diabetic, Black and Senior

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