The Diabetes Epidemic

The current prediction for diabetes is that it will affect more than 50% of Americans by the year 2020. Consider the fact that the year 2020 is less than 8 years from now! Currently, it affects about 25.8 million people in the US. That’s about 8.3% of the US population. So, in 8 years, 145 million more people will have diabetes. That’s approximately 170 million US men, women and children with diabetes. This is alarming. Even more alarming is the fact that most cases of diabetes can be prevented, especially Type 2 diabetes.

Why isn’t more being done to stop this diabetes epidemic? If this were the bird flu, or the swine flu, or any other epidemic, the US government would be working 24/7 to stop the epidemic. As would the pharmaceutical companies in trying to develop an effective vaccine. Could it be that there is more money to be made in treating diabetes than preventing it?

Cost of Diabetes

Medical expenses are two times higher for people with diabetes compared to those without diabetes. The estimated cost of diabetes in the US in 2007 was $174 billion. At that time there were 23.6 million, or 7.8% of the US population that had diabetes. The cost of diabetes affecting 50% of Americans in 2020 is unfathomable.

This is just the monetary cost of diabetes. Consider the emotional cost of diabetes for so many affected by it. Not only the emotional cost of having the disease, but of all the complications that come with the disease. And the grief of lost lives due to the devastating effect of the disease. It is very sad.

Danger of Diabetes

Diabetes is the result of the inability of the body to produce enough insulin or use insulin correctly. All of us produce insulin which helps our body use the sugar from food for immediate energy or store it for later use. But when something goes haywire, our body can’t process the insulin as it should. This allows too much sugar to stay in the blood. This excess sugar circulates through the blood, causing injuries to our blood vessels and nerves.

When our blood vessels and nerves get damaged, the blood flow is reduced. This can lead to neurological pain in parts of our body, like our feet and legs. It can also cause us to heal more slowly, allowing time for infection and gangrene to set in. Reduced blood flow to our heart and brain can cause things like heart attacks and strokes.

Diabetes Prevention

Most diabetes can be prevented through changes in our diet and lifestyle. Everyone should be aware of what causes diabetes and what prevents it. Healthy living to prevent diabetes is everyone’s responsibility. Perhaps we should consider it a duty- a duty to our family to stay in the best possible health, a duty to our country to be a good steward of our health care dollars by staying healthy and living a lifestyle that doesn’t lead to disease.

Where to Start

Know your risk of diabetes. Here are the risks according to the American Diabetes Association:

Who is at Greater Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?

  • People with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and/or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
  • People over age 45
  • People with a family history of diabetes
  • People who are overweight
  • People who do not exercise regularly
  • People with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives)
  • Women who had gestational diabetes, or who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth

Once you know your risk, do what you can to eliminate the risk factors you can, such as losing weight, regularly exercising, changing your diet to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Find out more about the association between triglycerides and diabetes here.

Live To Prevent Diabetes

You can prevent, or at the least, delay type 2 diabetes by living a healthy lifestyle. You owe it to yourself and your family.

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