We tend to classify people as skinny, fat, average, heavy, etc. It is easy to generalize people in these terms and make assumptions about health. However, studies are showing more and more that a person can be within a healthy weight range and still have too large a body fat percentage. Conversely, a person may be larger with an equal weight distribution and be in good health. When looking at diabetes and a person’s risk, both weight and weight distribution are important factors. There is more to the picture than skinny or fat.
What Is Diabetes
Diabetes is an illness where the body is unable to use and store glucose, so it backs up into the bloodstream and causes blood sugar to rise. When the body is properly functioning, it produces insulin that helps the body turn glucose into energy and store it for later use, so if blood sugar rises, the pancreas makes insulin to regulate it. In people with diabetes, this function doesn’t work efficiently or at all.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when the body stops producing insulin altogether, so insulin injections are needed to regulate blood sugar levels. In type 2 diabetes, not enough insulin is produced or the body has become resistant to insulin, so blood sugar is allowed to increase to toxic levels. Type 1 diabetes typically shows up in children and adolescents, while type 2 diabetes generally develops later in life. Diabetes is linked to family history, age, race, and overall health. That said, both types can happen to anyone at any age.
Left untreated, diabetes can cause serious harm to the body like blood vessel and nerve damage, kidney damage or failure, blindness, foot damage, hearing impairment, and Alzheimer’s. This is why it is so important to recognize symptoms and talk to your doctor about treatment right away. Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, wounds that won’t heal, numbness or tingly hands or feet, and/or blurry vision. Irritability, extreme fatigue, and being continuously thirsty can also be signs of diabetes.
Prediabetes and BMI
Prediabetes means just that. It’s a warning that you are on your way to getting diabetes. Being overweight or obese puts you at a greater risk for developing diabetes because the more fat you have in your body, the more likely your glucose levels are out of balance.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a common calculation used to measure the amount of body fat a person carries. BMI uses weight relative to height to determine a number that you can compare to a scale to tell you if you are within a healthy range or not. The healthy range is a BMI of 18.5-24.9 with anything outside of that being underweight or overweight respectively. However, researchers have discovered that BMI is lacking when it comes to diagnosing prediabetes. In fact, a study in the Annals of Family Medicine showed that as many as one in five adults between the ages of 20 and 44 fell within the healthy BMI range but were prediabetic. When the ages got above 45, that number jumped to one in three! Part of the reason for this is that as people age, they may stay the same weight but lose muscle mass, so the BMI doesn’t change even though they are carrying more fat. With 85 million adults diagnosed as prediabetic, and a 25% likelihood of a prediabetic person developing diabetes, we can’t afford to look at BMI alone.
Waist circumference is a very helpful measurement for assessing body fat and diabetes risk. Research shows that the distribution, not just the presence, of the fat is important—the more weight in the midsection, the greater the risk of diabetes. The greatest risk is in women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more and in men with 40 inches or more. This is not to say that being outside the healthy BMI range doesn’t matter, but rather that even if you are inside the healthy BMI range, you could still be at great risk if your waist circumference meets these criteria.
If you suspect you are at greater risk for diabetes because of family history, BMI, and/or waist circumference, you can significantly decrease the risk by losing weight. At NEW You Weight Loss we can help you improve your health by making your weight loss goals reality. Request a free consultation today!