Ask a DCES: Why Was I Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes or Prediabetes?
Do you ever wish you could ask a diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) anything about Type 2 diabetes? In our new monthly Ask a DCES column, you can get your most burning questions answered from a DCES professional on various topics, including diet, medication, exercise, and mental health. Want to submit a question to us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dear DCES: I was just told I have Type 2 diabetes and I know someone who was told he has prediabetes. Why did this happen to us?
Dear Reader: The short answer is: It’s complex. But I recently went to a talk by a physician who has been researching the causes and problems with diabetes for years, and he said: “The only way to cure diabetes or prediabetes is to select different parents.”
Prediabetes and diabetes are conditions where genetic and environmental factors come together and result in insulin resistance. This happens years before the actual diagnosis. and there are no specific tests for insulin resistance. You can’t change your genetics, but the good news is that you have some control over the changes in your environment and lifestyle, which can really impact managing these conditions, along with some medications that may be needed over time.
There is no genetic test to identify Type 2 diabetes or people at risk for Type 2 diabetes. But it tends to run in families, which suggests a strong genetic link. We also know that certain ethnic groups have a much higher risk of developing diabetes, including African Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
Studies have identified hundreds of DNA variations that are associated with the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Scientists surmise that it is the combination of those variants that helps determine a person’s likelihood of developing the disease. Recently, there has been more discussion in the scientific community about using these gene variations, a person’s physiology, and their clinical presentation to predict who is more or less likely to benefit from a specific treatment. They call this precision medicine, and if it becomes more widely utilized, will likely result in more types and subtypes of diabetes in the future.
Although your genes may predispose you to develop prediabetes or diabetes, genetic variations likely act together with health and lifestyle factors to influence your overall risk. We may not be able to pinpoint a specific pattern of inheritance, but we do know that it all starts with something called insulin resistance. This means your body is resistant to the effects of insulin, which when working properly helps you to metabolize sugar, or glucose, in your blood.
When you have insulin resistance, it takes more and more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in the normal range. Over time, the body can’t produce enough insulin to do this. This leads to first developing prediabetes and then potentially progressing to Type 2 diabetes. But not everyone with prediabetes is destined to get Type 2 diabetes. This is where lifestyle change can make a huge impact. Increasing activity, eating less fat, and losing just 5% of body weight has been shown to boost the body’s response to insulin. A lifestyle change program can you help hit these targets and reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
I have personally seen many people who are healthier after they get diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes than before. We are all human and sometimes we need something to kick us into the change mode to be able to build sustainable new lifestyle habits. It’s never too late to start making those changes. A diabetes care and education specialist can help. you manage the things you can change and cope with what you can’t. You can read more about the benefits of diabetes self-management education and support at DiabetesEducator.org/DCEShelp.
For more information about prediabetes, visit DiabetesEducator.org/prediabetes.
This content was produced in partnership with the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES), a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2.