Ask Peggy

Is diabetes hereditary?

Dear Peggy: Everyone in my family has diabetes. Even though I live a healthy lifestyle is it inevitable that I will develop diabetes later in life? —D.B., Bush, LA

The short answer is no, it is not inevitable that you will develop diabetes later in life. The exact cause of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is still unknown. However, you do have a greater risk of getting the disease.

According to the American Diabetes Association, if your father has Type 1 diabetes, the chance of you getting Type 1 diabetes is 1 in 17. That changes to 1 in 25 if your mother has Type 1 diabetes and you were born before she was 25; 1 in 100 if you were born after she turned 25. If one of your parents was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes before the age of 50, your risk for Type 2 diabetes would be 1 in 7. Your risk decreases to 1 in 13 if your parent was diagnosed after the age of 50.

Keep in mind that while genetic predisposition is a risk factor for both types, it is just one risk factor. We know that lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of exercise are significant risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, so if you're getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, you're making a huge step toward minimizing your risk.