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
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
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.