Think of the typical person with type 2 diabetes. Did you imagine someone older, overweight, inactive? You’d be partly right, but the big picture is more complicated and far-reaching.
People are developing type 2 diabetes younger than ever. Also, the disease progresses faster in younger people than older ones. Complications related to diabetes such blindness and kidney disease are increasingly a young person’s problem.
Being overweight is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. But the inch you can pinch (subcutaneous) isn’t the most troubling kind of fat. Hidden layers of fat around organs (visceral) are thought to drive up the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Normal-weight people who are TOFI—thin outside, fat inside—may look healthy but still have excess visceral fat that increases their risk.
Older folks aren’t the only ones not moving enough—fewer than 3 out of 10 high school students get the recommended 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Getting less than 150 minutes of physical activity a week is a risk factor for diabetes. Increasing physical activity, on the other hand, is especially effective at reducing the visceral fat mentioned above.