| Thu, Nov 07, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

Diabetes is a Family Affair

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

type 2 diabetesTrue or false? If my parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes, I am at an increased risk to develop type 2 diabetes.

True. A family history of type 2 diabetes is a strong risk factor for the disease. If you have a mother, father, brother or sister with diabetes, you are at risk.

True or false? My mother has been told by her health care team that she is at high risk for diabetes, or that she has prediabetes. She will get diabetes very soon.

False. Studies have shown that people at high risk for diabetes or with prediabetes can turn back the clock to delay or even prevent a diagnosis of diabetes.

True or false? Type 2 diabetes runs in my family, so there is nothing I can do to prevent getting the disease.

False. Even though a family history of type 2 diabetes is a strong risk factor for developing the disease, some of this risk is a result of lifestyle. Being overweight, making unhealthy food choices and not getting enough exercise can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.

True or false? My mother was diagnosed with diabetes when she was pregnant with me. She and I are both at an increased risk for developing diabetes.

True. When a woman gets diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), she is at an increased risk for developing diabetes for the rest of her life. In addition, her child is at an increased risk for becoming obese and for developing type 2 diabetes for the rest of his or her life. But there are many ways to lower this risk for both mother and child.

These questions and answers are from the Family Health History Quiz created by the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). NDEP is a partnership of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The quiz is part of NDEP’s ongoing efforts to promote the prevention, early detection and effective treatment of type 2 diabetes in the U.S.

The Good News

Even if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, there are many things you can do to help lower your risk. If you’re overweight, losing five to seven percent of your body weight may help to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. That’s just 10 pounds for someone weighing 200 pounds.

You may lose a modest amount of weight by taking these two simple steps:

  • Get about 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week. Brisk walking is a great way to start.

  • Make healthy food choices. Eat a diet low in fat, and limit calories.

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is good for everyone. Make it a family affair!

Diabetes Basics

Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood sugar levels to be higher than normal. This happens because your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or it can’t use the insulin it makes. Blood sugar is also called blood glucose. Insulin helps the body use glucose for energy.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. With type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your body makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time the body isn’t able to make enough insulin to overcome the insulin resistance.

Pre-diabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. For some people with prediabetes, taking action early may bring blood sugar levels back into the normal range.

Diabetes affects older adults in large numbers. NDEP says 10.9 million Americans age 65 and older, nearly 27 percent, have diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes. This is the highest rate of diabetes among all age groups.

Medicare and Diabetes

Medicare Part B covers screenings to check for diabetes if you have risk factors. You may be eligible for two diabetes screenings each year.

You are eligible for screenings if you have: 

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • History of abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels (dyslipidemia)

  • Obesity

  • History of high blood sugar (glucose)

Medicare also covers diabetes screenings if two or more of the following apply to you:

  • Age 65 or older

  • Overweight

  • Family history of diabetes (parents, brothers, sisters)

  • History of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or delivery of a baby weighing more than 9 pounds

If you have diabetes, Medicare covers diabetes supplies, self-management training and medical nutrition therapy services.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.


National Diabetes Prevention Program: Find a recognized type 2 diabetes prevention program in your state.                                                                                                                             

It’s Not Too Late to Prevent Diabetes: Learn how to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Medicare & You: Learn about Original Medicare coverage and costs in this annual publication.


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