Good question, right?
Unlike many diseases, diabetes doesn't seem to be an inherited trait like albinism or hemophilia. In fact, experts aren't completely sure what causes it. However, it's clear that some people actually are more likely to get diabetes than other people, and that genetics predispositions do exist. How do you know how likely it is for a person to get diabetes?

First, not everyone with a genetic predisposition for diabetes gets it. Identical twins with exactly the same genes don't automatically both get diabetes. There has to be some kind of environmental trigger, and since everyone is different (even identical twins in the same house) not everyone will actually manifest their diabetic tendencies. Unfortunately, researchers aren't sure what things are triggers and what are coincidences yet. A few of the factors they think may trigger type 1 diabetes are:

  • Cold weather - diabetes seems to surface more often during colder months
  • Diet - babies who were breastfed and waited longer for solid foods seem to be less likely to develop diabetes
  • Viruses - some viruses could trigger diabetes in some people when it causes other people little trouble.
For type 2, there's a different set of possible triggers:
  • Obesity
  • Westernized eating - too much fat, not enough carbohydrates, not enough exercise
Most of these ideas are still very shaky, but researchers are working to find answers. The patterns that they find are confusing, because predispositions for the disease will come up with one result in one place and another somewhere else. A person in Africa with the same predisposition as someone in the United States will almost never actually get the disease.

Type 2 diabetes does run in families, so the chances of your children getting diabetes if you had it are good, especially if you were diagnosed after the age of 50. Researchers are getting better at predicting who gets diabetes, and eventually may be able to figure out who will get it much more effectively than they do now.

In the meantime, the best thing to do is to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. Even if you do develop diabetes under these circumstances, you'll already be on your way to a great way to manage your diabetes.