Did you know that type 2 diabetes affects men and women differently? Diabetes can cause complications like neuropathy and vision problems in both sexes. However, men can also experience specific urological and sexual health issues as a result of diabetes. In fact, diabetes is a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction, which cannot be easily treated despite the use of medication like dulaglutide. This is due to factors like obesity, hypertension, and low testosterone, which can all compound to worsen an individual’s health.
It’s important to examine your risks for type 2 diabetes so you can address and prevent any further complications. Let’s take a closer look below at these risk factors and what you can do.
Risk factors for men
Our previous article on American health found that men have worse cardiometabolic health than women. This can be chalked up to an obesogenic and sedentary lifestyle — a lifestyle consisting of behaviors such as prolonged sitting, lack of physical activity, poor diet, and short sleep duration. These can all affect the regulation of our body’s insulin and contribute to the development of diabetes and other cardiometabolic diseases.
Unfortunately, men also tend to be more exposed to unhealthy vices. According to the WHO and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 36.7% of all men are tobacco users, and 8.3% are alcohol users, as opposed to 7.8% and 4.5% of all women.
Smoking and alcohol abuse have long been proven to be tied to type 2 diabetes. Regular heavy drinking can cause chronic pancreatitis and higher caloric counts in men. Additionally, nicotine makes it harder to control your blood sugar, which is why smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.
Besides these social mechanisms, there are biological factors that program men to be more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes. Research has found a link between testosterone and the development of type 2 diabetes, wherein low testosterone levels in men can increase visceral fat deposition in the body. This contributes to the reduced response of insulin to glucose. Because one in six males has low testosterone, this leads to a dramatic increase in diabetes risk.
Moreover, men are further disadvantaged in the distribution of fat because of how their bodies naturally accumulate excess fat around the abdomen. Abdomen fat raises the risk of insulin resistance more than any other type of body fat. All of these risk factors subject men to higher chances of type 2 diabetes, making them almost twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as women.
Mitigating the risks
Fortunately, healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent type 2 diabetes and overcome biological predispositions. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve one’s cardiometabolic health and thereby delay the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.
To start, men can alter their diets to primarily include foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. In order to nurture a healthy relationship with food, weight loss programs based on nutrition science can consider an individual’s genetic susceptibility to diabetes and work around it by introducing customized meals that fit a user’s lifestyle and budget. This makes it easier for an overweight male to make the shift away from vices like alcohol and salty or greasy comfort foods and instead form lifelong habits that prioritize his health.
The same logic can be found in introducing exercise to someone with a sedentary lifestyle. Research has found that exercise tailored to an individual’s body is an effective way to address diabetes. Taking the time to understand how your genetic background determines your response to exercise can lead to faster results and thereby increase your motivation to continue the program.
An early assessment of your risk factors is often the best way to prevent type 2 diabetes, or at least stop it from worsening. By starting your lifestyle changes today, you can decrease these risks and improve your overall condition for a longer and healthier life.