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Diabetes Health Center

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Weight and Diabetes: Lose Pounds to Lower Your Risk

By John Donovan
WebMD Feature

If you’re overweight, you’ve probably thought about shedding some pounds. If you have diabetes or are at risk for getting it, you should stop thinking and start doing -- now. Why? Because excess weight puts a strain on your body in all sorts of ways.

“If I suddenly take a bunch of gravel and throw it in the back of your car, you can still probably make 70 mph on the interstate. But you’re going to make the engine work a little harder. If I put 1,000 pounds in your car, that effect increases. I can probably put enough weight in so, eventually, your car no longer can perform like it needs to,” says David Marrero, PhD, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association.

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It sounds harsh, but the truth is, that extra weight in your trunk? It can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Your engine already is whining. Ditch the gravel. You might be surprised at how dropping just a few pounds can make a dramatic difference.

“What we know in diabetes prevention, and in prediabetes, is that a very modest amount of weight loss has this huge reduction in risk,” Marrero says. “You lose 7% of your body weight, you cut your risk [of developing diabetes] by 60%. And, in fact, if you’re over 65, it’s over 70%."

But how do you not just lose weight, but keep it off? Through a combination of exercise and watching what you eat.

The Exercise Factor

If you’re overweight and have diabetes, or are at risk of getting it, you have to exercise. There’s no way around it.

“In your body, what exercise does, is it allows you to bind or uptake insulin more efficiently,” Marrero says.

Your pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that “unlocks” the cells so they can use sugar from the food we eat as energy. “You have what they call receptor sites, and the more you exercise, the more active your receptor sites are. And the less you exercise, the less active and responsive they are,” Marrero says.

If you’re serious about losing weight, working out has to be part of the big plan. But check with your doctor before adding it to your routine.

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