One Family Explores Its History

Gen Ray is a 54-year-old widow who was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Her husband died of heart disease 10 years ago at age 46. Gen says that he did not have diabetes but that his grandfathers on both sides developed it later in life.

When Gen’s physician reviewed her lab test results with her and told her she had Type 2 diabetes, he mentioned that diabetes has a genetic component, and when both parents have it (or have it in their families), the offspring have a significant risk of developing it too. That means that Gen’s daughter, now 31, has an elevated risk of eventually developing Type 2 diabetes. The good news is that she can take steps now to lower her risk.

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Soon after her own diagnosis, Gen learned that her late husband’s sister Phoebe had also developed Type 2 diabetes about a year ago, at age 50. Phoebe told Gen that her treatment plan consisted of two oral diabetes medicines along with recommendations for meal planning and exercise. Gen recognized one of the oral medicines as the same one she had been prescribed. Phoebe mentioned that her 29-year-old son had been recently diagnosed with prediabetes.

Phoebe also commented that even after a year of living with diabetes, she was still struggling to get a handle on meal planning. Gen had just met with a registered dietitian who had helped her outline a nutrition plan and recommended that she have a look at an American Diabetes Association resource called MyFoodAdvisor. The site, which can be accessed at www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness, has diabetes-friendly recipes and tips for meal planning. Gen encouraged Phoebe to have a look and also to see a dietitian for help.

Gen and Phoebe were happy to have each other’s support in their quest for diabetes control. Since they live in the same neighborhood, they decided to start taking 30-minute walks together four to five times weekly – after getting the OK from their respective physicians, of course.

Eager to help their children get a handle on their diabetes risk, Gen and Phoebe invited the cousins to lunch to share what they’d learned about diabetes running in families and how to take control. Phoebe’s son said he’d like to meet with a dietitian and also work with a personal trainer to assist with weight control. Gen’s daughter was interested to know that she was at risk of developing not only prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, but also gestational diabetes, should she become pregnant. All present agreed to share tips with one another for a promoting a healthier lifestyle focusing on Type 2 diabetes control and prevention. Gen and Phoebe emphasized to their offspring the importance of having routine checkups so that their physicians could continue to monitor their blood glucose levels and their risk for diabetes in the future.