Women and Diabetes | Categories Utah Women and Health Risk Factors | DOI: 10.26054/0KR3XFXBJ1


Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., with almost 21 million Americans (7.0% of the U.S. population) having diabetes. While there is little gender difference in the prevalence of diabetes among the U.S. adult population (10.5% for males and 8.8% for females), there are important reasons to place a women’s health emphasis on the disease.[1] Women generally play the primary role in food choices and preparation for their families; therefore prevention efforts focused on women may impact other family members. Women are also at risk of developing gestational diabetes which can affect pregnancy outcomes. Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

How are we doing? (Utah data versus the U.S.)

The prevalence of diabetes has increased, both nationally and in Utah. Several factors contribute to the rise including increasing rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, improvement in medical care of people with diabetes leading to longer a lifespan, changing population demographics, and, finally, a 1997 change in the key diagnostic criterion (fasting blood glucose >126mg/dl) which has contributed to an increased number of people who were clinically diagnosed. According to Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance data, an estimated total of 5.9 million adult women (aged 18 or older) in the U.S. have been diagnosed with diabetes. In Utah, approximately 42,000 adult women have been diagnosed with diabetes. The percentage of adult women in Utah compared to the U.S. adult women is depicted in the Figure 1. While the rate in Utah remains less than the national rates, it has increased over the past decade and is cause for concern.

Figure 1

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop diabetes, but the risk is greater for those who are older, overweight or obese, physically inactive, or members of a minority racial or ethnic group. According to the American Diabetes Association, 9.7 million or 8.8% of all women aged 20 years or older have diabetes although nearly one third of them do not know it. The prevalence of diabetes is at least 2 to 4 times higher among non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander women than among non-Hispanic white women. The prevalence of Hispanic/Latino Americans in Utah has risen considerably over the past 2 decades and undoubtedly will increase rates of diabetes in the state.

The highest rates of diabetes are seen in American Indian and Alaska Native persons. The American Diabetes Association reports that 99,500, or 12.8% of American Indians and Alaska Natives aged 20 years or older who received care from IHS in 2003 had diagnosed diabetes. Taking into account population age differences, American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.2 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.[2]

What is being done to address this problem?

A large multi-center study, The Diabetes Primary Prevention (DPP) study which was funded through a wide partnership of federal agencies showed that weight loss and participation in regular physical activity can decrease the risk for diabetes.[3] The DPP trial studied over 3,000 people who already  had impaired fasting glucose and  were therefore at an increased risk for developing diabetes. The study found that participants who engaged in moderately intense physical activity for 30 minutes per day and lost five to seven percent of their body weight decreased their risk of diabetes by 58 percent.

The Utah Department of Health’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program strives to increase public awareness of the warning signs, symptoms, and risk factors for developing diabetes. In addition, the program also promotes improved management of diabetes for those already diagnosed through various media campaigns.


  1. Diabetes Prevalence. Retrieved on April 23, 2007 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health website: http://ibis.health.utah.gov/indicator/complete_profile/DiabPrev.html
  2. Total Prevalence of Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes. Retrieved on April 23, 2007 from American Diabetes Association website:
  3. Diet and Exercise Dramatically Delay Type 2 Diabetes: Diabetes Medication Metformin Also Effective. Retrieved on April 23, 2007 from the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health website: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/welcome/releases/8_8_01.htm