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Your Weight and Diabetes: Does Being Overweight Increase Your Risk?

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The implications of obesity go far beyond physical appearance. People who are overweight or obese deal with a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis.

The term diabetes refers to a group of progressive metabolic illnesses. Type 1 is a chronic condition that affects the pancreas and severely limits its ability to produce insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. Type 2, however, is weight-related and develops when the body becomes insulin-resistant. According to The Obesity Society, “people who are overweight or have obesity have added pressure on their body’s ability to use insulin to properly control blood sugar levels, and are therefore more likely to develop diabetes.”

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Americans living with the disease has risen to unprecedented levels in the last two decades. In 1997, when the CDC first started tracking the disease in America, 5.1 percent of adults had been diagnosed with the disease. In 2015, that number had reached 9.7 percent — and may actually be much higher. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 8 million Americans are diabetic and don’t know it. When left untreated, complications from the disease can be dangerous, if not fatal.

The rise in diabetes correlates with increasing rates of obesity in America. According to the CDC’s research, obesity rates are higher than they’ve ever been. The Obesity Society further suggests as many as 90 percent of those who live with type 2 are overweight or obese. Why? Excess abdominal fat makes it difficult for the pancreas to produce insulin.

If you have a family history of diabetes or heart disease, your risk of developing the disease is even greater. Screening (beginning around age 30) is recommended for adults with a family history of diabetes. Early screening is also encouraged for those whose birth weight was more than nine pounds, as large babies may have a higher risk of developing type 2 in adulthood.

However, even if you are overweight or obese, you aren’t destined to suffer from diabetes. Reducing your percentage of body fat can decrease your dependency on diabetes medication or reduce your risk of developing the disease at all. Weight loss surgery can also be an effective treatment option, even for patients who are mildly obese. Not only can losing weight help treat or prevent the disease, but bariatric surgery is thought to affect the hormones that control how the body handles insulin and blood sugar, further helping in the treatment of the disease.

The American Diabetes Association and the International Diabetes Federation endorse bariatric surgery as a viable treatment for obese patients with the disease. Although surgery is not considered a cure, studies have shown that a majority of obese diabetics who undergo weight loss surgery see dramatic improvements in their blood sugar levels. Whatever the treatment option, maintaining a healthy weight is essential to both the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes or a family history of the disease, contact McCarty Weight Loss Center to learn how bariatric surgery can help improve your health.