What Is Type 2 Diabetes and Why Are More Men Developing the Disease?

More than 34 million (about 1 in 10) Americans have diabetes, and about 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Recently, doctors have seen a dramatic rise in the rates of type 2 diabetes in all the US states. What's alarming is more men are developing the disease. Studies were done to find out why men are more at risk. Researchers found that the level of body fat plays a significant role.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Having type 2 diabetes, also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, means your body is unable to make enough insulin or cannot use it properly. This is called insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas and helps blood sugar reach the cells for your body to use as energy.

The pancreas increases insulin production in order to get the cells to respond in people who are insulin-resistant. This causes blood sugar levels to go up and eventually leads to prediabetes and later type 2 diabetes because the pancreas is unable to process excessive insulin.

Common Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes usually takes years to develop and before symptoms show up. Typical symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst or hunger

  • Dry mouth

  • Frequent urination

  • Persistent fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Blurred vision

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Frequent infections

  • Slow-healing sores

Common Risk Factors

Anyone can get diabetes but the risk increases if you:

  • Are a female

  • Are overweight or obese

  • Having a large waist (31.5 inches for women and 35 inches for men)

  • Are over age 45 (aging decreases the body's tolerance for sugar)

  • Have a family member with diabetes

  • Eat a high-sugar or high-carb diet

  • Have high bad cholesterol levels or high blood pressure

  • Live an inactive lifestyle

  • Being Black, Asian, or from an ethnic minority group

Factors Linked to an Increase in Type 2 Diabetes in Men

Previously, women appeared to be the ones who were getting type 2 diabetes more than men. More recently, men are found to be more susceptible to the disease due to their biological makeup. Researchers also suggest that visceral fat (belly fat) and being middle-aged are additional risk factors.

Visceral fat is fat that wraps around the organs in your abdominal cavity deep inside your body. Everyone has this type of fat even if you're not overweight based on your Body Mass Index (BMI).

Another thing to note is body fat distribution is different in men compared to women. Men tend to store fat in their liver and around their waist. On the other hand, women have more fat stored on the hips and thighs. The harmful fat deposits linked to type 2 diabetes are found in the belly or midsection.

Visceral Fat and Signs of Type 2 Diabetes in Men

As a man, you're more likely to get type 2 diabetes at a lower weight compared to women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's because men store more fat in their bellies.

Scientists also discovered from a study that having a larger amount of visceral fat in their bodies is making more men prone to developing insulin-resistance diabetes. The study was done to assess the risk factors of type 2 diabetes (and other medical conditions) among 70-year-old men and women. A total of 1393 participants (705 men and 688 women) took part in the study.

Generally, there has always been a strong connection between diabetes and obesity. In fact, many people are found to be overweight at the time they are diagnosed with diabetes. However, the difference in women vs men seems to lie in the level of visceral fat. Furthermore, although obesity is more prevalent in women, men appear to be at a greater risk of type 2 diabetes compared to women with similar BMIs.

But visceral fat and increased android fat in the abdominal area are said to be stronger risk factors for men than BMI. Similarly, gynoid fat (fat that accumulates around the hips and buttock) appears to be a strong risk factor for women. Moreover, there is a link between visceral fat and glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

Note that you cannot tell how much visceral fat someone has by looking at them. A non-invasive way to measure belly fat is by using a tape measure to measure your waist. A sign of visceral fat is having a waist of 35 inches or more (for women) or 40 inches or more (for men).

Being a Middle-aged Man

Reports from an earlier study, "Diabetes in the UK 2009," found that men aged 35-54 are almost twice as likely to have diabetes compared to females of the same age range. The study was carried out on men and women living in the UK. According to statistics from the report, diabetes had risen four times faster in men aged 35-44 over the past 12 years compared to women of the same age. Men were also shown to be more overweight than women.

Key statistics and facts on diabetes show that around 92,960 (2.4%) of men in England between the ages of 35-44 have diabetes compared to around 47,000 (1.2%) of women of the same age. In addition, an estimated 197,050 (6%) of men between the ages of 45-54 have diabetes compared to an estimated 120,670 (3.6%) of women within the same age range.

The Takeaway with Type 2 Diabetes in Men

Type 2 diabetes affects both men and women and is a serious disease that can lead to life-threatening complications. However, men are more at risk due to having more belly fat as they age. If not managed properly, the disease can lead to high blood pressure which may cause other serious health problems including heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision loss.

Those who already developed type 2 diabetes may be treated with medications such as oral pills or insulin injections for patients whose bodies do not make enough of the hormone.

Getting your annual exams done can help your doctor detect indicators of type 2 diabetes symptoms in men. You can also help reduce your risk of developing the disease by eating a healthy low-sugar, low-carb diet, making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or alcohol drinking, exercising at least 30 minutes a day, and getting enough daily sleep. These lifestyle adjustments are also helpful in managing diabetes symptoms.

Do you still have questions or concerns about type 2 diabetes? Contact one of our experts!

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The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.