The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports on their website that a staggering 26 million children and adults in the United States have some form of diabetes. In fact, each year, diabetes kills more Americans than AIDS and breast cancer combined. An additional 79 million Americans are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The ADA hopes the observance of American Diabetes Month (ADM) in November will help Americans focus on the many issues surrounding diabetes including, its consequences, the management of the disease and most importantly, preventing the disease. Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless steps are taken to stop diabetes.
With all forms of diabetes, it is the body's ability to convert food into energy that is impaired. After eating, the body breaks down most food into glucose, a kind of sugar, the main source of fuel for cells. In those with diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin or the cells do not respond to insulin properly. Often, both processes of insulin production and insulin action are impaired. Without treatment, glucose begins to build up in the blood instead of moving along into the cells, where it can be converted into energy. Over time, the high blood glucose levels caused by diabetes can damage many parts of the body, including the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves, feet, and skin. Such complications can be prevented or delayed by controlling blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
The ADA estimates the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States to be $245 billion, which includes direct medical costs as well as indirect costs like, disability, work loss, and premature mortality. In addition to the financial toll, diabetes takes a great physical toll on the individuals dealing with the disease. Two out of three people with diabetes will die from heart disease or stroke. Additionally, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults. Want to keep all limbs attached? Then avoid diabetes, which has been shown to have a rate of amputation 10 times higher than it is for those without diabetes. Additionally, about 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, and sexual dysfunction.
Prevention is key. According to the CDC, researchers have found that modest weight loss and exercise can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes among adults at high-risk of diabetes. Modest weight loss means 5% to 7% of body weight, which is equal to 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Getting at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking, also is important. Other research has shown that consuming sugary drinks is linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Experts recommend that people restrict their intake of sweetened beverages including soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks. Consider the fact that just one 12-ounce can of regular soda has on average 150 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrate. This is equivalent to the amount of carbohydrates in 10 teaspoons of sugar!
Milt Bedingfield, a certified Diabetes educator, wrote in the Huffington Post, “For the person with Type 2 diabetes, every time they engage in exercise, in a sense, it's as if they are getting the rust sanded off of their hinges and having them sprayed with WD-40. Exercise directly deals with the root of the problem -- insulin resistance -- like no other treatment. Exercise facilitates like nothing else getting sugar out of the blood.”
Get involved, help spread awareness. This year, the ADA is continuing the initiative “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” that began in 2012 to demonstrate the impact diabetes has on families and communities across the country. The ADA is asking people to submit a personal image representing what a “Day in the Life of Diabetes” means to them to be included in a larger mosaic image. For more information or to upload an image, please visit, diabetesmosaic.org or call 1-800-DIABETES.