Diabetes Risk Awareness: Focusing on LGBTQ+ Health during Pride Month

lesbian couple

Pride Month is a perfect time to not only celebrate the strides made by the LGBTQ+ community but also to highlight health challenges, like the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, while about 10% of the general population has diabetes, this number jumps to 25% among gay or bisexual men and 14% among lesbian or bisexual women. Understanding why this happens is crucial to improving health outcomes.

Factors Contributing to Higher Diabetes Risk:

  1. Overweight and Obesity

Being overweight or obese are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Research shows that lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men are more likely to be overweight or obese. Chronic stress and disrupted sleep patterns play a significant role here.

  • Chronic Stress: Due to discrimination and social exclusion, LGBTQ+ individuals often face chronic stress, which increases cortisol levels. This hormone can boost appetite and cause fat to store around the belly, raising diabetes risk.
  • Sleep Patterns: Stress and mental health issues can disrupt sleep, making it harder to manage weight and blood sugar levels.

Small lifestyle changes like regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques can make a big difference. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for support tailored to your needs.

  1. Increased Rates of Chronic Health Conditions

The LGBTQ+ community often faces higher rates of chronic conditions that increase diabetes risk.

High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease: 

These conditions, more common among gay and bisexual men, impair blood vessel function and trigger insulin resistance, raising diabetes risk.

  • Smoking: LGBTQ+ adults, particularly lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals, have higher smoking rates, partly due to targeted marketing and as a coping mechanism. Quitting smoking significantly reduces diabetes risk.
  • HIV and HIV Medications: Higher rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men and transgender women means that certain HIV treatments, which can increase insulin resistance, are more common in these groups.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): More common in lesbian and bisexual women, PCOS is linked to weight gain and insulin resistance.

Regular health screenings and open communication with your healthcare provider can help detect and manage these risks.

  1. Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is essential for many transgender people but can lead to weight gain, higher cholesterol, and changes in fat distribution, increasing diabetes risk. Regular monitoring of weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels with your healthcare provider can help manage these risks.

Taking Action: A Holistic Approach

Understanding and addressing these unique challenges is key to improving health outcomes for the LGBTQ+ community. During Pride Month, consider these steps:

  • Education and Support: Raising awareness about diabetes risks specific to LGBTQ+ individuals is crucial. Educational campaigns and resources can help spread this knowledge.
  • Accessible Healthcare: Ensure access to culturally competent healthcare providers who understand LGBTQ+ needs. Regular screenings for diabetes and other chronic conditions are vital.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Programs: Community programs focused on healthy eating, physical activity, and stress management can significantly reduce risks. Support systems for smoking cessation and counseling are also important.

Addressing the higher diabetes risk for the LGBTQ+ community requires targeted interventions and support systems. By promoting inclusive healthcare and understanding unique challenges, we can reduce this risk and improve overall health. This Pride Month, let’s celebrate the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and commit to providing the support needed for everyone to lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

If you are interested in taking your first step towards weight loss, healthier eating, increased physical activity and are a resident in Southern Maryland, we encourage you to click here to learn more about the National DPP and preregister today. Your journey toward improved health and well-being begins with TLC-MD.

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