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Title: Risk for Diabetes in Relation to Obesity or Being Overweight
Author: Angela Mangano, RN, BSN

Date Posted:


          According to the National Center for Health Statistics, (NCHS) (2006) diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for approximately 72,815 deaths in 2004. Although the death rate of diabetes decreased by 0.9 percent from 2003 to 2004, it is still a significant problem for this country. Being overweight or obese is one of the major risk factors for diabetes (NCHS, 2006) and in 2007, the prevalence of undiagnosed and diagnosed diabetes in people older than 20 years of age was 23.5 million in the United States (NDIC, 2007). Having an extremely high incidence of this proves the importance of implementing an approach to reduce diabetes. Educating the public about this critical risk factor is an essential first step towards a healthy future of our society as a whole.

            Diabetes is a disease in which the body holds too much glucose. Insulin, which aids glucose in reaching the cells of the body, is secreted by the pancreas. With diabetes, the body either cannot synthesize insulin, also known as Type 1 diabetes, or is not able to use insulin properly, which is Type 2 diabetes (NCHS, 2006). Type 2 diabetes may be prevented, since it is typically onset during adulthood. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes described by the NCHS (2006) are “older age, obesity, family history ďf diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity” (¶ 7). Although each of these is a significant risk factor, being overweight or obese is a top priority for education, especially with the given statistics of occurrence in the United States.

            Being classified as overweight or obese is determined by a Body Mass Index, (BMI) which is weight in kilograms divided by (height in meters)2. A BMI of at least 25 is considered overweight and a BMI of at least 30 is considered obese (NCHS, 2006). There are many factors that affect the incidence of obesity and being overweight: eating habits, activity and exercise, genetic predisposition, illness, medications, etc. Eating habits as well as activity and exercise can be controlled and modified, thus facilitating weight loss or preventing weight gain. Having a strong knowledge-base of nutrition, activity and exercise may decrease the risk for diabetes, as well as many other illnesses and diseases (NDIC, 2007). In order to do this, basic principles can be taught to enforce that being overweight or obese is a significant health problem.

            Obesity and being overweight can occur with any age group, race, sex, cultural background or socioeconomic status. However, some groups have greater occurrences than others and may affect the individual differently depending on which category they fall into. For example, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP, 2004) states that “about 1 out of 7 American children between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight” (¶ 28). Being overweight as a child can cause many psychological problems, especially low-self esteem, and can greatly increase their chance of developing a chronic illness later in life, such as diabetes (AAFP, 2004). Education is a very important role in problems with weight; those that are not aware of the health problems associated with being overweight or do not know how to maintain a healthy BMI may be at a greater risk (AAFP, 2008). This poses an increased need for education of all types of people, no matter what categories they are classified under.

            Aside from the health problems that overweight or obese people are at risk for, there are sociocultural factors that greatly affect their perception of the problem. Stuart and Laraia (2005) describe that in the American culture, “thinness is highly valued, culturally rewarded, and associated with achievement” (p. 523). Society is constantly put under pressure to be thin, which greatly contributes to low self-esteem and pressure to lose weight. However, losing weight is not easy, especially if the knowledge of what contributes to it is absent. In order to properly teach the importance of managing weight, these factors need to be taken into consideration. Also, putting too much stress on weight loss can contribute to eating disorders (Stuart and Laraia, 2005). Providing constructive criticism while maintaining client’s self esteem is important in education of weight management.

            Having knowledge of diabetes is essential in prevention and management of the disease. It is a responsibility of the nursing profession to educate the public as much as possible about diabetes because it is a serious illness that is still affecting a large number of the population. Nurses everywhere can contribute to education of being overweight or obese as a risk factor for developing diabetes. The nursing profession has a well rounded knowledge of the pathology of diabetes, knowledge of the problems associated with diabetes, how to recognize it, as well as knowledge of nutritional facts and how to manage weight. The nursing profession is compassionate and should easily be able to impart this knowledge and share its resources with people of all backgrounds. With knowledge of diabetes, the occurrence of the disease will hopefully be decreased and the current instances better maintained.

About the Author: Angela Mangano RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing from Radford University in Virginia. She currently works at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, VA on a Medical-Surgical Progressive Care Unit.

References: American Academy of Family Physicians. (2004). Working with your doctor to overcome overweight and obesity. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from MD Consult.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2006). Basics about diabetes. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

National Center for Health Statistics. (2006). Deaths-leading causes. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. (2007). National Diabetes Statistics:2007. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. (2007). Diabetes Prevention Program. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

Stuart, G.W., & Laraia, M.T. (2005). Principles and practice of psychiatric nursing (8th ed.). St. Louis, MI: Mosby. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2004). Active at any size. Retrieved November 9, 2006, from Weight-control Information Network.

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