How Weight Affects Diabetes

March 21, 2017

How Weight Affects Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when there are high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. All three types of diabetes involve problems with insulin, a hormone that removes glucose from the blood and allows it to enter the body's cells. (The cells use it for energy.) If your body is unable to make or use insulin properly, you have a high blood glucose level.


The risk factors for type 1 diabetes are uncertain, though family history seems to play a role. The risk factors for type 2 diabetes are:

  • Over age 45

  • Body mass index (BMI) greater than 30

  • A family history of diabetes

  • Race (diabetes is more common among American Indians, Hispanic/Latino Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders)

  • High blood pressure or high levels of blood fats (such as cholesterol and triglycerides)

  • History of gestational diabetes

  • Physical inactivity


Warning signs of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst

  • Unusual tiredness

  • Excessive appetite

  • Increased urination

  • Tingling or numbness in legs or feet

  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal

  • Blurred vision or any change in vision

Types of Diabetes

There are three types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Although type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, it occurs most often in children, teenagers, or young adults. Symptoms include being very thirsty, hungry, and tired and needing to urinate often. Children with type 1 diabetes rarely have these symptoms for longer than 3 weeks before the disease is diagnosed.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops making enough insulin. The risk factors for type 1 diabetes are uncertain, although family history seems to play a role. Thus the main treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin injections. Your doctor will prescribe the lowest possible insulin dosage. In addition, people with type 1 diabetes need to have a specific meal and exercise plan that fits their health, age, and lifestyle.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and usually develops gradually, with few, if any, warning signs. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas keeps making insulin, but the body is not using it effectively. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood. Your doctor may diagnose diabetes by tracking a gradual increase in blood glucose levels.

The main way to treat type 2 diabetes is through lifestyle changes. In some cases, medications or insulin may be needed to lower blood glucose levels. However, for many adults with type 2 diabetes, following self-care steps alone is all that is necessary to manage the disease.

Gestational Diabetes

In some women, the hormonal changes of pregnancy demand more insulin than the body can make, and diabetes develops. After the birth of the baby, blood glucose levels return to normal and the diabetes goes away. However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


Eat a Healthful Diet

  • Watch your total carbohydrate levels. Research now shows that it is the total amount of carbohydrate eaten, not just the amount of starch or sugar, that affects the blood glucose levels after eating.

  • Follow a meal plan. A meal plan tells you how much food you need and how to plan meals and snacks so you know what to eat and when. It should be suited to your lifestyle and nutritional needs.

  • Maintain or attain a healthy weight. If you have type 2 diabetes and are overweight, it is important to reach a reasonable body weight. Often if you lose only 5 to 10 pounds, your blood glucose levels are easier to control. For children with type 1 diabetes, it is important to consume enough calories to provide for normal growth and development.

Monitor Your Blood Glucose Regularly

Uncontrolled, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, or nerve damage. If you have diabetes, you can help prevent these problems by keeping your blood glucose levels in check. Your health care provider can teach you how to monitor your blood glucose. He or she will also recommend how often you should test your blood.


Exercise can lower blood glucose levels, making body cells more sensitive to insulin and improving their ability to use and store glucose. In fact, exercise combined with fewer calories will often control type 2 diabetes without the need for medication. If you exercise, you can also enjoy other benefits, such as improved heart and lung efficiency, reduced body fat, improved muscle tone, and improved fitness. Your doctor can help you determine the type of program that is best for you.


Although there are no guarantees when it comes to the prevention of diabetes, there are steps you can take to control factors that increase your risk.

  • Attain or maintain a healthy weight. It is not normal to gain weight as you get older. If you are overweight, even a small amount of weight loss will be beneficial.

  • Stay active. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week.


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN,Lambert, J.G. M.D.,Louise AkinLouise Akin RN BSN