November is diabetes awareness month. Why is this important? Because, diabetes (specifically type 2 diabetes) is a HUGE problem.
Here are some quick facts:
- Of those Americans over 65 years of age, close to a third (26.9%) had diabetes in
- Almost 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
- 86 million Americans have prediabetes.
- 7 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
Why is it such a problem? Diabetes is a major cause of kidney failure, limb amputation and blindness. It is also a risk factor for stroke and heart attack.
Overweight and obese individuals are most prone to developing type 2 diabetes. Weight gain decreases the body’s sensitivity to its own insulin. This causes the body to kick out more insulin, but eventually insulin stores run down. This whole process results in inflammation, and that is how diabetes causes serious damage to the body.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes in the past, is no longer a disease of adults. As a result of our obesity epidemic it is becoming a disease of children. Unfortunately all the complications that follow as a result are being seen in children including stroke.
The symptoms of diabetes can be subtle. When it becomes more pronounced with increasing blood sugars the symptoms that occur include excessive thirst, urination and an increased appetite. Some people may lose weight. Others may also note fatigue and tingling of the hands and feet.
Fortunately, type 2 diabetes is preventable. A recent study found that small amounts of weight loss (5-10%) could delay or prevent diabetes in those who are at risk. In fact, it was pretty dramatic. Diabetes was reduced by 40 to 60% over the 3 to 6 years that the study was conducted. The solution to this growing problem sounds easy. But, it is not, because achieving significant weight loss is tough.
Obesity continues to grow as an epidemic that threatens to kill our children, crush our medical system and ultimately our economy. We worry about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction or WMD, but perhaps what we should fear most are the ultimate WMD, the knife and the fork.