If the signs and symptoms of diabetes are addressed early enough, during a condition that doctors refer to as “prediabetes,” it can often be prevented.
Diabetes is very common in men. Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes, is the commonest type of diabetes. Up to 95% of the nearly 14 million men in America with the disease have this type of diabetes.
The rates of diabetes have dramatically risen in America in recent years, but the biggest jump was among men.
The risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes increases with age. Poor lifestyle choices like a high-fat diet and lack of exercise leading to obesity also increase the risk of developing diabetes.
However, most men who develop diabetes experience early signs – a condition known as “prediabetes.” If appropriate action is taken at that time, the symptoms of prediabetes can be reversed and the development of diabetes prevented.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is not a single condition or disease. It is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by increased levels of glucose or “sugar” in the blood. Insulin is the hormone that helps to “metabolize” sugar. This is why diabetes is referred to as a “metabolic condition.”
A man with diabetes does not produce enough insulin, or the cells lose their ability to respond properly and “open up” in the presence of insulin. Either way, the result is too much glucose or sugar building up in the blood instead of getting into the cells where it is needed for energy.
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells. But glucose cannot enter from your blood into your cells on its own; it requires the help of insulin in order to do so.
People with type 1 diabetes have a genetic defect or other disease or condition that prevents their bodies from making enough insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is an acquired form of the disease that results from insulin resistance that builds up over time due to things such as obesity, heart disease, or other health problems.
When we are talking about the relationship between diabetes and testosterone, we are almost always talking about type 2 diabetes. In fact, that is what medical science believes is the link between diabetes and testosterone. Low testosterone seems to decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin, increasing insulin resistance, which leads to obesity and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What Are the Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes?
Most men who develop adult-onset or type 2 diabetes suffer from a condition known as prediabetes first. Prediabetes is a condition where you have higher blood glucose levels than normal and is usually a sign that you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
When the signs and symptoms of prediabetes show up, it is at this stage that diabetes itself may be preventable. Other than higher than acceptable glucose levels determined by a blood test, prediabetes itself does not have any specific symptoms.
A darkening of the skin in various parts of the body, such as in the neck, armpit, or groin, is a telltale sign of prediabetes. Other signs and symptoms that you have prediabetes and may be moving closer to type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- Frequent infections
- Slow-healing sores
- Unintended weight loss
If you are a man over 45 and experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if you are overweight, it is imperative that you see a doctor and be screened for diabetes. Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication.
What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Diabetes Before it Starts?
Studies have shown that 90% of the cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented – or significantly delayed – simply through a healthier diet and increased physical activity. Smoking cessation and eliminating or reducing your consumption of alcohol can also help to lower your risk of diabetes.
Taking steps to reduce stress may also help prevent diabetes. Stress increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol; cortisol is a testosterone antagonist. The higher your cortisol level, the lower your testosterone, and there is a known link between low testosterone and diabetes.
What if I Already Have Diabetes?
Many men who already have diabetes also suffer from low testosterone. Clinical research has shown that there is a definite link between low testosterone and diabetes.
Men who are diagnosed with Low-T are often obese. Men suffering from age-related testosterone deficiency have lower metabolism and insulin resistance. These are just some of the reasons why there is substantial overlap between the symptoms of low testosterone and type 2 diabetes.
Low testosterone does not cause diabetes, nor can we say that diabetes causes low testosterone. The two conditions are not in a “cause and effect” relationship, but they are what doctors consider to be “comorbid” conditions. Meaning that they usually occur at the same time because they share many common causes, and one condition definitely influences the other.
Studies have shown that men with low testosterone and diabetes see a reduction in the symptoms of both conditions once they have completed a course of testosterone therapy. Studies have found that in men with type 2 diabetes and hypogonadism, testosterone therapy was able to decrease insulin resistance by 15.2% after six months of therapy and 16.4% after one year.
While testosterone therapy is not considered a treatment for nor a cure for diabetes, there is significant evidence to suggest that testosterone replacement can be very beneficial in men with both low testosterone and diabetes. There is also evidence that testosterone therapy can help men suffering from “prediabetes” from developing the condition. The strongest advice that physicians give to patients with prediabetes is to lose weight. One of the many benefits of testosterone therapy is weight loss and increased lean muscle. This may account for the many studies that have found that testosterone replacement can prevent men with prediabetes from developing type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes in men is, for the most part, an acquired condition. When men are experiencing the earliest signs of prediabetes, interventions and lifestyle changes focused primarily on weight loss could prevent the development of diabetes.
For men who already have diabetes and low testosterone, testosterone replacement therapy can be quite beneficial.
Frequently Asked Questions About Men and Diabetes
Diabetes is not curable, but it can be managed and treated with lifestyle changes and medications. Diabetes may be prevented if the right actions are taken in the prediabetes phase.
If you seek treatment while in the earliest stages of prediabetes and make an effort to lose weight and eat a healthier diet, you can reverse course and prevent prediabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes. There are also some medications that may also work to stop prediabetes from becoming diabetes.
No. Prediabetes is a “warning sign” that in the absence of taking action, you are very likely to develop diabetes, but it is not guaranteed. If you make the right kind of lifestyle changes, particularly losing weight, you may be able to prevent diabetes in the prediabetes stage.
Having diabetes does not mean that type 2 diabetes is inevitable. However, if you do not take measures to change course, you could progress from prediabetes to diabetes within a year. This is especially true if you are over 65.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable, even if you have a family history of the disease. If you are prediabetic, take action now to prevent the condition from progressing to diabetes, such as:
- Eating healthy foods
- Getting active
- Losing excess weight
- Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Not smoking
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