Diabetes: An Epidemic
affects more than 16 million people in the United States. That alone is a staggering statistic. Much of the increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is due to the dramatic upsurge in obesity. Obesity has risen 57% since 1991.
What is Diabetes? Diabetes is a chronic disorder that develops when the body does not produce enough, or does not properly utilize, insulin. Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to convert sugars and starches (carbohydrates) into energy. Without insulin for this conversion, glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood and the cells starve for energy.
There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 diabetes occurs most often in children and young adults. The body does not produce insulin and Type 1 diabetics must take insulin daily. The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes often
come on suddenly and very severely. They can include:
Type 2 diabetes, known as adult onset diabetes, occurs in adults and accounts for 90-95% of all diabetics. Type 2 results from the body’s failure to produce enough insulin or properly use it. The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are often experienced gradually and sometimes people don’t notice any symptoms. The symptoms include:
Those most likely to be affected by diabetes are people who are older, overweight, sedentary and certain minorities. These minority groups are African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders and
Native Americans. The tendency to develop diabetes is known to be inherited.
Testing for diabetes is accomplished with a fasting blood glucose test. A blood sugar level of 126
mg/dL indicates diabetes. The older and more well-known test is a glucose tolerance test. The patient’s blood is tested and then they drink a syrupy sweet liquid.
The blood is again tested two hours later. A blood sugar level that is elevated to 200
mg/dL indicated diabetes.
Treatment for Type 2 diabetes includes various lifestyle modifications including controlling the intake of sugars and starches through diet, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, increasing physical activity, and weight loss. If diabetes is not controlled by these methods there are medications that can be prescribed and insulin injections may be required. Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol is crucial in preventing heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death in diabetics.
Complications of the disease include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage which could lead to amputation. Continued high blood sugar levels cause damage to organs throughout the body. Blood sugar levels can be checked at home by putting a drop of blood on a test
strip and inserting it into a meter.
Take a look at some frightening statistics obtained from the Centers for Disease Control:
at least 16 million Americans have diabetes
Diabetes kills 180,000 Americans each year
Diagnoses of diabetes jumped 33% between 1990 and 1998. During that time there was a 70% rise in the incidence of diabetes in the 30-39 year age group
Stroke and death rates are twice as high among middle-aged diabetics as compared to middle-aged people without diabetes
More than half of the lower limb amputations in the
U.S. occur among people with diabetes.
Is there anything we can do to avoid becoming yet another statistic? Studies have shown that even a modest weight loss of 15 pounds coupled with an increase in physical activity can be successful in aiding in preventing diabetes. Significant weight loss, regular exercise and dietary changes would be optimum. It is also suggested that yo-yo dieting be avoided and that instead, gradual permanent lifestyle changes be made. Many sources suggest a diet high in fiber and low in white bread and white rice with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Diabetes is a disease of epidemic proportions, but is a disease we can do something about. We can control our diet and increase our physical activity. What other disease can be held off so simply?
Type II Diabetes Is Preventable, Major Study Shows, American Diabetes Association – In the News, HealthSCOUT News, 9 Feb 2002
Test Medical Symptoms @ Home, Inc.,
Preventing Diabetes, Online NewsHour, 8 Aug, 2001
Diabetes ‘Epidemic’ in the US, ABCNews.com, 2001
Basic Diabetes Information, American Diabetes Association Type 2 Diabetes, American Diabetes Association
Is A Diabetic Epidemic on The Horizon?, Diabetic Gourmet Magazine, 2000
National Diabetes Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control, Diabetes Program, 1998
Clinical Alert: Diet and Exercise Dramatically Delay Type 2 Diabetes; Diabetes Medication Metformin Also Effective, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), 08 August
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