Health experts don’t yet know the best ways to reduce type 1 diabetes risk, but they do note that risk can run in families. Your child may be at higher than average risk if you or anyone in your family has type 1 diabetes or an autoimmune condition such as celiac disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Other risk factors include:
- Genetics. The presence of certain genes can indicate increased type 1 diabetes risk.
- Low vitamin D levels. Not getting enough vitamin D during infancy and childhood may increase risk.
- Omega-3 fats. Lack of omega-3 fats in the pregnant mother’s and baby’s diets may increase risk.
- Timing of adding cereals. Introduction of cereal grains, such as rice—typically a first solid food—into a baby’s diet prior to three months or after seven months may increase risk.
- Cow’s milk. There is some evidence that early introduction of milk and other dairy into a baby’s diet may increase type 1 diabetes risk, especially in genetically susceptible infants.
- Geography. Risk appears to increase with distance from the equator. For example, rates of the disease are significantly higher in North America and northern Europe than in countries near the equator.
- Pregnancy and birth factors. Preeclampsia (defined as high blood pressure and excess protein in the mother’s urine), as well as jaundice in the infant at birth,
both may increase risk.
- Respiratory infections. Newborns who experience respiratory infections just after birth may have an increased type 1 diabetes risk.
- Maternal age. Children of younger mothers, especially those under age 25 at the time of birth, may be at increased risk for developing type 1 diabetes.
You can’t change your child’s genetics, and it’s unlikely you’ll be moving specifically to address this particular health issue, but if you or your baby has more than one or two of the other risk factors for type 1 diabetes, talk to your pediatrician about steps you can take to potentially minimize the chances your little one later develops the disease.
Our experts recommend the following tips to support your health when managing diabetes symptoms:
- Dial in your diet. Certain foods and nutrients may improve blood sugar control in people with type 1 diabetes. Olive oil, fiber, and a vegan diet all may provide benefits. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
- Inquire about insulin. Insulin is a mainstay of type 1 diabetes management. The body does not make this vital hormone at all in people with the condition. But there are many types of insulin, which can be combined in different ways to best manage blood sugar levels. Work with your healthcare provider to find the right options for your lifestyle. Select Medications, above, for more information.
- Track with accuracy. Finding the right tools to track your blood glucose is important. Learn all you can about the features and costs of various glucose monitors. It may be worth spending a little more if you like extra features, such as an option to download your results to a computer. Select Personal Care, above, for more ideas on tools for a healthier life.
- Visit the vitamin aisle. Certain dietary supplements, such as magnesium, chromium, and alpha-lipoic acid, may improve blood sugar management or lessen frequency and severity of diabetes complications. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.