March 22 is Diabetes Alert Day: Help your family know the risks for Type 2 diabetes

March 22, 2011

Anybody can develop diabetes, but some people are more at risk than others. For example, if you are American Indian or Alaska Native, and have a family history of diabetes, you are at increased risk for developing the disease, especially if a close family member -- mother, father, brother, or sister -- has diabetes.

Some women are at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes because they were diagnosed with diabetes during a pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes or GDM. If your mother had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with you, you may be at an increased risk for becoming obese and developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Knowing your risk for Type 2 Diabetes is an important first step toward preventing or delaying the onset of the disease. Find out your risk by taking the Diabetes Risk Test.

In addition to a family history and a history of GDM, some other risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes include being:
Overweight or obese
Physically inactive
Age 30 or older

While there are some risk factors that you cannot change, such as family history and age, there are risk factors associated with your lifestyle that you can change, such as being more physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. Be sure to talk with your health care provider and find out what you can do to lower your risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes.

The good news is that people can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes by making lifestyle changes, such as losing a modest amount of weight (if overweight) by being more physically active and making healthy food choices. If you are overweight, create a lifestyle plan that includes losing a small amount of weight-5 to 7 percent (10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person)-and being more physically active.

Here are some simple steps you can take:
Make healthy food choices such as fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats, poultry without skin, dry beans and peas, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.

Choose water to drink.

Eat smaller portions. Make half your plate vegetables and/or fruits; one-fourth a whole grain, such as brown rice; and one-fourth a protein food, such as lean meat, poultry or fish, or dried beans.

Be active at least 30 minutes, five days per week to help you burn calories and lose weight. You don't have to get all your physical activity at one time. Try getting some physical activity during the day in 10 minute sessions, three times a day. Choose something you enjoy. Ask family members to be active with you.

To help you reach your goals, write down all the foods you eat and drink and the number of minutes you are active. Review it each day.

NDEP has free resources to help you learn more about your risk for diabetes, as well as ways to help you lower your risk. Call 1-888-693-NDEP (1-888-693-6337) or visit for more information on how to prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes. Ask for Your GAME PLAN to prevent type 2 diabetes, a tip sheet called "It's Never Too Early to Prevent Diabetes," and a tip sheet for children at risk called Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Diabetes Education Program is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of more than 200 partners at the federal, state and local levels, working together to improve the treatment and outcomes for people with diabetes, promote early diagnosis, and prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.

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