Obese men lose almost 6 healthy years to diabetes, study says

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Upcoming epidemic: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, type 2 diabetes accounts for almost 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults. Research shows that type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes. | FILE PHOTO

Americans are living longer, but fewer of those years are spent in good health for those who are obese because they are developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study being published in the October issue of Diabetes Care.

While life expectancy at age 18 for American men and women increased between the 1980s and the 2000s, the number of years an 18-year-old would expect to live without diabetes fell by 1.7 years for men and 1.5 years for women.

Meanwhile, the proportion of 18-year-olds expected to develop diabetes in their lifetimes increased by almost 50 percent among women and almost doubled among men, researchers at Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the University of Colorado found.

Obese individuals experienced the greatest losses in lifetime without diabetes over the past 20 years, estimated at 5.6 years for men and 2.5 years for women.

“We found a pattern that points to a prolonged period of health problems rather than longer healthy lifespans, but only among obese individuals,” said lead researcher Solveig Cunningham, Ph.D., of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. “Among non-obese individuals, who represent the majority of the population, lifetimes without diabetes increased during the same period. Therefore, diabetes prevention efforts should now be focused on obese individuals.”

Currently, 34 percent of the U.S. adult population is obese and more than one third of Americans are expected to develop diabetes over their lifetime. However, research shows that type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed through lifestyle change — specifically, by losing weight and increasing physical activity levels.

The findings also emphasize the potential impact on the nation’s healthcare system, as a growing number of people will be sicker longer. Diabetes-related complications can include kidney and heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, amputations and other serious health problems.

“This study highlights the growing prevalence of diabetes, implying greater future healthcare demand at younger ages and for longer lifespans,” the researchers wrote.

RESOURCES

The American Diabetes Association offers a free Living With Type 2 Diabetes program. Click here to learn more.