Have you noticed that in recent years there seem to be two very prevalent epidemics affecting the world on a global level? I am specifically referring to type 2 diabetes and obesity. So what is the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes?
When I think about my mother, I realize she had a whole host of health problems that I never really connected with obesity before but the evidence is there.
What do I mean, well to start with she was obese which in my opinion led to everything else:
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
While I loved my mother dearly, I now realize the lifestyle choices she made during her life led to her ultimate demise.
By looking at her example I hope I can help other people realize what they may be doing to their health and inspire them to make the necessary changes to improve their health and hopefully live a longer life than my mother’s 67 years.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is when a person either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use that insulin effectively.
While type 2 diabetes may share many of the same symptoms as type 1 diabetes they are very different.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is usually developed in childhood or adolescence,
Type 2 is usually caused by poor lifestyle choices leading to becoming overweight and obese and is usually developed later in life.
The symptoms of diabetes are pretty much the same regardless of which type of diabetes you have. People may experience all or only a few of the following symptoms:
- frequent urination
- excessive thirst and drinking a lot
- feeling very hungry
- feeling very fatigued
- blurry vision
- cuts or sores that don’t heal properly or take longer to heal
- irritability or mood swings and unintentional weight loss (type 1)
- tingling or numbness in hands or feet (type 2)
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms be sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is important to avoid any complications.
It is quite common for many type 2 diabetics to not have any symptoms for many years and then symptoms may develop slowly over time. It is then discovered after they had developed a complication such as heart and blood vessel disease, neuropathy (nerve damage), kidney damage, or eye damage.
The treatment of type 2 diabetes is often lifestyle changes such as:
- eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
- daily exercise (a simple walk)
- regular, quality sleep
- your doctor may prescribe medications to help your body use insulin more efficiently.
- In extreme cases, you may be prescribed insulin.
It is not unusual for lifestyle changes to actually reverse symptoms, in this case, I would recommend continuing with your new healthy lifestyle to maintain that newly found good health.
Be sure you follow your doctor’s advice and frequently monitor your blood glucose levels making any necessary corrections as advised.
Overweight vs obesity
Most of us seem to use these two words interchangeably however there is a subtle difference in their medical meaning.
Obesity occurs when a person has accumulated so much body fat that it may harm their health.
This differs greatly from being overweight, where the weight may come from muscle, bone, fat or body water.
To put it simply, if you weigh 20% or more of your ideal body weight, you are considered obese.
Professionals have suggested using your body mass index (BMI) as a rough indicator. A BMI above 30 is considered obese.
Having a higher than normal BMI does not necessarily mean you are unhealthy.
For example, bodybuilders are constantly building muscle which means they are also putting on weight but it does not mean their health is at risk.
There are many reasons obesity can occur such as:
- consuming too many calories
- a sedentary lifestyle
- insufficient sleep
Regardless of the reason, obesity definitely increases the danger of illnesses like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
All of these were illnesses my mother had and she was obese. In fact, I don’t remember her ever being at a healthy weight.
Obese people have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This can also be referred to as insulin-resistant or adult-onset diabetes. This is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are consistently high.
Did you know that 60 – 90% of all patients with type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight?
So how does being obese increase the risk?
When a person is obese, the cells of fat tissues need to process more nutrients than they can manage. This causes stress in these cells which trigger an inflammation that releases a protein called cytokines. These cytokines block the signals of insulin receptors, gradually causing the cells to become insulin resistant.
Insulin is required for our cells to use the glucose (sugar) from our food for energy.
When you are insulin resistant, your body is unable to convert the glucose into energy and the glucose remains in the blood raising the levels dangerously.
The same stress that triggers the inflammation of cells can also lead to heart disease.
Diabetes and heart disease link
Diabetics are at a higher risk of developing severe heart diseases such as coronary heart disease, heart failure or diabetic cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disorder).
Over time, the high blood glucose from diabetes damages blood vessels and nerves that control the heart and blood vessels.
Many people with type 2 diabetes also have high blood pressure and obesity which both further increase the risk of developing heart disease.
- consistently managing your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- quit smoking
- eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- engage in physical activity daily
- maintain a healthy weight
- effectively manage stress
- ensure you get enough sleep
Obesity and high blood pressure
When a person is obese, the heart needs to work extra hard to pump blood throughout the body.
This is the result of fatty substances accumulating in the arteries.
This is called hypertension and is caused by the increased pressure put on the walls of the arteries by the blood.
Obese individuals that have accumulated abdominal fat are highly likely to develop hypertension.
High blood pressure and heart disease
This means that glucose can’t enter the cells to be used as energy and instead accumulates in the bloodstream.
When blood with elevated glucose levels travels throughout the body it can cause harm to the blood vessels making them prime targets for hardening.
This is called atherosclerosis. If this is left untreated the blood vessel damage can cause high blood pressure or hypertension.
When the heart consistently has to work so hard to pump the blood throughout the body various heart disorders can occur.
What can I do?
The best thing you can do for yourself is to fully understand the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes.
If you are obese, I strongly urge you to work with your doctor to find a weight loss strategy that works for you.
- eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Getting daily exercise
- get enough quality sleep
Make the necessary lifestyle changes to improve your health before it is too late.
Always follow your doctor’s advice and take all medications as prescribed.
I can’t tell you how devastated I was to see my mother not making healthy choices in her life. Who knows how many more years we may have had with her if she had only taken her health more seriously.
Your health affects more than just you
We don’t often think about it but the reality is our health affects more than just us.
Think about that for a moment.
You have parents, siblings, children, or maybe even grandchildren who all love you very much.
Doesn’t it make sense that how you treat your health affects them?
If you take your health for granted, chances are they will too.
I was fortunate that I noticed some of my mother’s health challenges and decided at a young age to make different choices in life.
I don’t ever remember seeing my mother at a healthy weight, and I don’t ever remember her not having high blood pressure.
As a result of these two health challenges alone, she couldn’t do many things with us as we were growing up. She would watch us play or do things but couldn’t participate herself.
You bet that affected us.
What is the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes?
When you take the time to really examine it, it is pretty profound.
Obesity can cause several health challenges that can all contribute to developing diabetes or shorten your lifespan.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to follow your doctor’s advice.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, get regular exercise and take all medications as prescribed.
Remember, your health matters to more than just you.
I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.
Have you been able to become healthier by making lifestyle changes?
Have you been able to avoid a diabetes diagnosis by making dietary changes?
Share your experiences in the comment section below.