Many of us desire to look and feel better by losing weight. Those are great goals, but sometimes they just aren’t motivating enough to make the big changes that are necessary for maintaining healthy weight loss. In addition to slimming your profile, healthy weight loss can slash your risk of serious chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Type 2 diabetes is a major health concern for people who are overweight. Formerly known as “adult-onset diabetes,” type 2 diabetes isn’t something you’re born with, but develops over time. It’s caused when your cells become resistant to insulin, a hormone that helps the body process the sugars in food.
Normally, the pancreas makes insulin and sends it into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates from food are broken down in the stomach into a type of sugar called glucose, which then travels around the body through the blood. Insulin ferries glucose molecules from the blood into cells, where they are used for fuel.
When this process stops working smoothly, that’s diabetes. The pancreas stops producing enough insulin, and glucose builds up in the bloodstream. High levels of sugar in the blood damage cells throughout the body. Common effects of diabetes include nerve damage, particularly in the hands and feet; blindness; kidney damage; and heart disease.
More than 90% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher. (BMI is calculated based on weight and height. For reference, a person who is 5’4” and 145 lbs, or 5’9” and 170 lb, would have a BMI of 25.)
Diabetes doesn’t make you feel sick right away. Even before you’re diagnosed, the damage can start accumulating. Startlingly, a recent study showed that 74% of people with undiagnosed diabetes believed their risk of having the disease was “low” or “very low.” If you’re overweight, it’s important to get checked out regularly by a medical professional. Catching the warning signs early can serve as a wake up call to begin a healthy weight loss program. A doctor can tell from your blood test whether you have “pre-diabetes,” which means the amount of glucose in your blood is elevated, but doesn’t yet reach the threshold of diabetes.
The good news is that even if you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it’s still within reach to turn your health around. A study from Johns Hopkins University showed that people diagnosed with prediabetes who lost 10% of their body weight dramatically lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In addition to a healthy weight loss diet and regular exercise, FDA-approved weight loss drugs can provide that extra push to reach your ideal weight. A drug called liraglutide (Saxenda), approved by the FDA for weight loss in 2014, also fends off diabetes. In one recent study, 66% of patients taking the drug successfully reversed their pre-diabetes, cutting their blood sugar levels back down into the healthy range.
Whether it’s establishing new eating habits, incorporating exercise into your daily routine, or starting a medically-assisted weight loss regimen, it’s worth the effort to develop a plan for weight loss success today.
Kowall B, Rathmann W, Stang A, et al. Perceived risk of diabetes seriously underestimates actual diabetes risk: The KORA FF4 study. PLoS One 2017; 12(1): e0171152. [Published online 2017 Jan 31] doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171152.
Maruthur MN, Ma Y, Delahanty LM, et al. Early Response to Preventive Strategies in the Diabetes Prevention Program. J Gen Intern Med 2013 Dec; 28(12): 1629–1636.
[Published online 2013 Jul 17] doi: 10.1007/s11606-013-2548-4.
Weight Loss Drug Slashes Prediabetes Risk. EndocrineWeb. Published May 14, 2019. Accessed October 18, 2019.