“A little known fact about type 2 diabetes is that you can be at healthy weight and still be at risk,” says LIUNA General Secretary and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Being overweight or obese may factor in the majority of type 2 diabetes cases, but people who are thin and otherwise fit can also develop this disease. Type 2 diabetes can be deadly, and regardless of your size, no one can afford to be complacent.”
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes disrupts how the body stores and uses insulin, the hormone manufactured in the pancreas that converts sugar, starches and other foods into energy. A person with type 2 diabetes has either developed a resistance to insulin or has a pancreas that no longer produces enough insulin. Generally, to avoid a potentially fatal diabetic coma and other complications, type 2 diabetics must take special medication, have daily insulin therapy and evenly space eating. (Sometimes through diet and weight loss and under the supervision of their health care provider, some type 2 diabetics can stop or reduce their medication.) Glucose (blood sugar) levels must also be closely monitored as they fluctuate throughout the day. All of this can make managing type 2 diabetes difficult.
Common, Disabling, Deadly, Costly
- Most of the more than 25 million people in the United States who are diabetic – 8.3 percent of the population – have type 2, but at least seven million are unaware. (In Canada, 6.4 percent of the population reports that it is diabetic.)
- At least one third of all Americans are prediabetic (glucose levels are elevated but not high enough to be diabetic) which raises their risk for heart disease and stroke.
- If current trends continue, one out of every three American adults will have diabetes by 2050.
- Among adults, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, kidney failure and amputations of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury.
- A person with diabetes has a shorter life expectancy and about twice the risk of dying on any given day as a person of similar age without diabetes.
- Annual health care costs in the U.S. that are related to type 2 diabetes are approximately $174 billion. Annual health care costs in Canada that are related to diabetes top $15 billion.
Average Weight or Thin and Diabetic
Genetics, ethnicity, inactivity, diet and where the body stores fat are factors as to why some people who are of average weight or are thin develop type 2 diabetes (and why some overweight and obese people do not).
- Genetics: Risk of type 2 diabetes increases when a parent or a sibling has type 2 diabetes.
- Ethnicity: Africans Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans and Latinos are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Inactivity: The less active a person is, the greater the risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Diet: Diets that are weighted more toward processed foods and sugary snacks rather than lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables increase risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Fat Distribution: Fat stored disproportionately around the mid-section increases type 2 diabetes risk.
Type 2 Diabetes Warning Signs Include:
- Blurred vision
- Frequent skin, gum or urinary tract infections
- Itching of skin or genitals
- Slow-to-heal cuts and bruises
- Tingling or numbness in legs, feet, fingers
- Extreme drowsiness
Experiencing any of these symptoms? Contact your health care provider immediately.
Regardless of your weight, body type or background, a diet of low-fat, low-sugar foods combined with regular exercise can help reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two hours and thirty minutes of weekly, moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking or bike riding. The CDC also recommends engaging in muscle strengthening activities such as lifting light weights or working in your garden at least twice a week.
Type 2 diabetes risk increases with age. This is why the American Diabetes Association recommends annual screenings for everyone beginning at age 45. A type 2 diabetes diagnosis is life-threatening and life-long. Take the steps now that can help you avoid this disease.
The LHSFNA publishes a health alert on diabetes prevention and detection that is available in English and in Spanish. Order it through the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]