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Daily Habits You Must Follow if Diabetes Runs in Your Family

Diabetes isn’t inevitable if you do these things.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Having a family history of diabetes doesn't necessarily mean getting diabetes is inevitable—certain lifestyle choices can be very effective at keeping diabetes at bay. "We can't change our genes, but we can change their function and expression," says Mark Hyman, MD. "The collective experience of our lives—our intrauterine environment, diet, toxins, microbes, allergens, stresses, social connections, thoughts, and beliefs—control which genes are turned on or off." Here are five daily habits to follow if diabetes runs in your family. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Watch Your Diet

Senior woman making choice between healthy and junk food

"When your diet is full of empty calories, an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.), the body slowly becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and needs more to do the same job of keeping your blood sugar even," says Dr. Hyman. "High insulin levels are the first sign of a problem. The high insulin leads to an appetite that is out of control, and increasing weight gain around the belly. High levels of insulin are warning signs — they precede Type 2 diabetes by decades. If you have a family history of obesity (especially around the belly), diabetes, early heart disease, or even dementia you are even more prone to this problem."


Stay As Active As Possible

woman jogging in the city by water

Being physically active helps your body stay sensitive to insulin, experts say. "Exercise has so many benefits, but the most critical one is that it makes it easier to control your blood glucose (blood sugar) level," says Lisa M. Leontis RN, ANP-C. "People with type 2 diabetes have too much glucose in their blood, either because their body doesn't produce enough insulin to process it, or because their body doesn't use insulin properly (insulin resistant). In either case, exercise can reduce the glucose in your blood. Muscles can use glucose without insulin when you're exercising. In other words, it doesn't matter if you're insulin resistant or if you don't have enough insulin: when you exercise, your muscles get the glucose they need, and in turn, your blood glucose level goes down. If you're insulin resistant, exercise actually makes your insulin more effective. That is—your insulin resistance goes down when you exercise, and your cells can use the glucose more effectively."


Maintain a Healthy Weight

Body fat analysis with electronic bioelectrical impedance scale at weight loss clinic.

One of the most effective ways of preventing type 2 diabetes is by maintaining a healthy BMI (body mass index). "In the United States, type 2 diabetes is predominantly related to obesity," says Bipan Chand, MD, Digestive Health Program and Regional Director, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care. "So someone who is obese and is trying to control a prediabetic condition should focus on weight loss. With excess fat, especially around the waist, the body has greater difficulty processing sugar and becomes resistant to insulin. An increasing body mass index (BMI) and growing waist size are better predictors of prediabetes. Insulin resistance and diabetes develop over years. Someone with a family history of diabetes and a high BMI for many years probably already has impaired pancreas function. So they may have had diabetes three to five years before it is diagnosed."

RELATED: Habits Secretly Increasing Your Abdominal Fat, Say Physicians


Sleep Quality

young woman holding face in bed in the dark dealing with insomnia or poor sleep

Did you know sleep—both quality and duration—can affect your insulin sensitivity? "We all know we need to get adequate sleep, but that is often impossible because of work demands and busy lifestyles," says Peter Liu, MD, Ph.D. "Our study found extending the hours of sleep can improve the body's use of insulin, thereby reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes in adult men. Reducing the incidence of this chronic illness is critical for a nation where diabetes affects nearly 26 million people and costs an estimated $174 billion annually." 

RELATED: The #1 Sign Your Blood Sugar is "Way Too High"


Stay On Top Of Your Blood Sugar

Young diabetic woman checking her blood sugar levels.

If in doubt about your blood sugar, or you have symptoms of prediabetes, talk to your healthcare provider. "Monitoring blood sugar helps to determine if you are meeting your glucose targets which helps to reduce the unpleasant symptoms of high and low blood sugar, and avoid long-term diabetes complications," says Diana Isaacs, PharmD, BCPS, BC-ADM, CDCES, FADCES. "It is helpful to remember that the numbers are neither good nor bad. They are simply information used to help you learn what is working well and identify areas for improvement in your diabetes management."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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