Diabetes is Not Just a Disease of the Overweight

by on August 13th, 2010
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I recently saw a headline that irked me greatly. People are afraid to admit they have diabetes because others have attached a stigma to it. “You ate too much candy when you were little.” “You’re fat, of course you have diabetes.”

Sorry, folks. This is not a disease of fat people, though fat people are at risk for it. It’s not just a disease developed by people who ate candy as a child. I don’t know anyone who could claim they never touched the stuff. It is a disease involving insulin; how it’s used and/or insulin production.

There are a lot of risk factors for diabetes. Yes, obesity is one. However, heredity is just as strong a factor. Do you have a first degree relative with this condition? You are at risk. (First degree relatives include parents and siblings.)

How is your body fat distributed? If you’re body fat is primarily in the abdomen, you are at greater risk. Those who carry their fat in the thighs are a bit better off.

Inactivity is another thing to consider. If you are sedentary, either by will or by need, your risk factors rise. If you can, begin a light exercise program to help reduce your risk.

Diseases don’t play the race card. The race card plays them. Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics all have a higher chance of developing type two diabetes. It’s not understood why, but the difference in some carbohydrates may play a role.

Age is a major factor. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop the problem. People slow down, exercise less, gain weight and otherwise activate many of the above factors as they get older. This is clearer now that children who are inactive, gain weight and don’t eat properly are also developing the disorder.

Pregnant women can also develop a form of diabetes. It’s called gestational diabetes, and usually rights itself after the child is born. However, having had gestational diabetes puts the mother at risk for type two diabetes later in life.

As you can see, while weight is a factor, it is not the only one. Nor is it really the main one. If you fit into any of these categories, you should have your blood sugar levels monitored. This applies to those of us who are overweight and any of you who are fit, healthy and at a normal weight. It doesn’t play favorites; you could develop it as well.

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