Diabetes

I know, I cannot believe it either, but November is already upon us. With that, every November, National Diabetes Month is observed to raise awareness to this growing issue and its affect on millions of Americans.

I know a few people with diabetes, is it really that big of an issue? According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2014 Diabetes National Statistic Report, 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the U.S. population have diabetes. This takes into account people with diagnosed diabetes and also an estimate of undiagnosed diabetes cases. This is a rising epidemic and is also one of the main causes of death in the United States. Similarly, obesity will soon surpass smoking as the leading preventable cause of death, and Type II Diabetes is a direct health consequence of obesity.

Just as quick information about diabetes, a person can have Type I or Type II diabetes. Type I diabetes is caused when a person is unable to produce adequate insulin. Type II diabetes is when a person’s body does not use insulin properly, or becomes insulin resistant. Because of this, a person’s blood sugar levels become more difficult to control. Type I is common among children and Type II is commonly associated with obesity.

How did we get to this point? In general, people’s lifestyles have changed from the past. We take in more calories than we used to (encourage by the larger society accepted portion sizes), partake in more sedentary behaviors, and decrease our regular exercise. If we compare our lifestyles now, how many more people have desk jobs than performing physical labor as their work; how many kids play with video games or iPads instead of running around outside; how many people eat the oversized portions of McDonalds on a regular basis; how many people do not have the means to afford healthy foods or do not live in an area with a grocery store with fresh produce and rather are forced to settle with the “foods” offered in their local corner convenient stores? As stated previously, Type II Diabetes is a direct health consequence of obesity. So if our obesity rates are on a steady incline, one can deduce that the rate of people with diabetes is also on an upward trend. Further, the CDC states that one’s “risk for developing type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity.” All of these have an affect on one’s chances of acquiring type II diabetes. It is important to be aware of all of these factors.

Does diabetes lead to other things? Diabetes can affect many parts of the body and is associated with very serious complications. To list some of the common issues:

*Varying (non-steady) blood glucose (sugar) levels

*High blood pressure

*High LDL cholesterol (This is your bad cholesterol.)

*Cardiovascular disease

*Stroke

*Blindness/eye problems

*Kidney disease

*Amputations

*Depression

*Nerve disease

*Complications of pregnancy

*Premature death

What are things you can do to detect/prevent diabetes? As a way to monitor yourself and detect diabetes earlier, be sure to get eye exams, urine tests, and foot exams regularly. These things can be done by attending your yearly doctor and eye doctor appointments. As a way to prevent type II diabetes, one can exercise regularly. According to the ACSM a person should be exercising for 20-30 minutes 3-4 days per week. It is also important to regulate your diet. Try to eat “whole foods” or unprocessed foods. This combination often leads to weight loss and if you are overweight, even losing 5-7% of your total body weight can greatly decrease your chances of obtaining type II diabetes.

Perhaps diabetes does not affect you directly, maybe you know a family member/friend/co-worker with diabetes, or maybe diabetes has no personal connection to your life. However, it is important to be informed about this issue, especially since it is a rapidly growing problem. For more information, visit the National Diabetes Education Program at www.ndep.nih.gov.

By: Natalie Radloff

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