The 5280 Guide to: The 5 Biggest Health Risks for Men

From heart health to prostate cancer screening to that most common of Colorado maladies—the adventure-sports accident (yes, it’s true!)—we examine the latest research, treatments, and controversies in men’s health.

April 2011


Colorado may have the lowest obesity rates in the nation, but Type 2 diabetes is still a major health threat for men. We spoke with endocrinologist Dr. Leonard Zemel of Creekside Endocrine Associates and Rose Medical Center for his wisdom on obesity, the Colorado lifestyle, and the epidemic of diabetes.

Obesity is really going to set this country back.

I can eyeball a person with a high BMI [body mass index] and get a sense of whether or not they’re at risk for diabetes.

Many countries have done large studies that show that there’s a strong relationship between your BMI, or your central weight, and the risk of dying at an earlier-than-usual age.

Colorado is the last thin state, with the lowest BMI—but that’s changing fast. Everyone says the last thin person in the country will be in Colorado…and then we’ll be down to none.

It’s the classic chicken-or-egg question. You look around here and you see thin people. The question is: Did the thin people who like the active lifestyle move here, and we’re blessed because everybody starts that way? Or does the environment make us value that lifestyle? I’d say it’s a little bit of both.

It amazes me when you travel around the United States, say, to Mississippi or the Carolinas. You look around, and you say, “Wow, people just don’t look the same here.”

We’re living in a society in which we’re able to be marketed to—I think marketing is one of the strongest forces out there. It’s like a force of nature. We’re marketed things that we glom on to that help us gain weight.

The remission rate of diabetes is close to 80 percent, or better, when people lose weight, either with help from procedures like bariatric surgery or through more routine measures like weight loss, willpower, and one-on-one nutrition counseling.

There are promising drugs out there that could help reverse weight gain, but they have side effects. And the FDA, under this administration, is opting for safety over getting these drugs out to the public.

The word “epidemic” is what’s been used to describe what’s going on with diabetes in this country because it keeps climbing with no plateau. We never used to see people in their teens who had gained enough weight to bring out a disease that’s supposed to wait until adulthood.

There’s an arms race between age and obesity, and obesity is catching up.

Is this preventable? Yes. I guess where I’d start is that we need a change in ideology, or a change in our personal hygiene. We need a change in how we take care of ourselves—how we follow a basic healthy diet and exercise routine.