Obesity and being significantly overweight are top type 2 diabetes risk factors. Weight loss through diet and exercise can lower risk and protect your health.
More than 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. About a million have type 1 diabetes (previously called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes), which usually appears in childhood or the teen years. But the vast majority have type 2 diabetes. Another 80 million Americans have prediabetes, meaning they are well on their way to developing full-blown type 2 diabetes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges these statistics about type 2 diabetes add up to a true epidemic and serious public health threat. After all, type 2 diabetes is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, glaucoma, neuropathy, and kidney disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. But there’s a way to prevent type 2 diabetes in most people — the key is to understand the type 2 diabetes risk factors you can control. And obesity is at the top of that list.
Understanding type 1 versus type 2 diabetes risk factors
The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune problem in most people with type 1 diabetes — the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, the hormone that allows blood sugar to enter cells and produce energy. Researchers think genetics and possible exposure to certain viruses trigger type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is different in several ways. First, the pancreas still makes insulin, but it may not be enough, or your body may not use it properly, causing blood sugar builds up in the blood. And, most importantly, it’s primarily a disease of lifestyle, so it is often preventable by controlling key type 2 diabetes risk factors — obesity and being overweight.
Type 2 diabetes risk factors
Type 2 diabetes doesn’t strike out of the blue. There are some type 2 diabetes risk factors you can’t control — like your age (you are more like to develop the condition if you are 45 or older) and family history. But there are crucial type 2 diabetes risk factors, obesity and being significantly overweight, you can control.
Physical inactivity, high blood pressure, and having prediabetes are also risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, and these conditions are also linked to obesity and being overweight.
In all, around 90 percent of people living with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Obesity and being overweight put excess pressure on the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. The result is too high, not properly controlled blood sugar levels, according to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Reverse prediabetes by tackling obesity
Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes — and it is typically caused by excess weight. If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, the good news is this is one of type 2 diabetes risk factors you can reverse by getting your weight under control if you are obese or overweight, the CDC explains.
Of course, if you are obese or have other chronic health problems, it’s important to work with your doctor on a healthy plan to tackle your weight problem.
However, even losing a small amount of weight if you’re overweight can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. A small amount of weight loss means dropping around five to seven percent of your body weight (which is only 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person).
Regular physical activity, which the CDC defines as getting at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or similar activity, is also important to lowering the risks for type 2 diabetes.
May 07, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN