The constant bombardment by the media (and our parents) about the benefits of healthy food and exercise seems to be falling on deaf ears, as Americans' incidence of diabetes continues to rise. While not all diabetes can be prevented or controlled through diet or exercise, it certainly could help a good portion of the 3 million Americans who became a diabetic within the last two years, increasing the national total to an estimated 24 million people. According to information just released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this accounts for nearly 8 percent of the American population.
If that's not enough bad news, there are two more whammies coming our way: (1) another 57 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes, which is a condition that causes an increased risk for diabetes, and (2) about 25 percent of the people who have the disease are not aware of it (although this percentage has decreased 5 percent over the past two years).
Dr. Ann Albright, director of the CDC Division of Diabetes Translation observed, "These new estimates have both good news and bad news.... It is concerning to know that we have more people developing diabetes, and these data are a reminder of the importance of increasing awareness of this condition, especially among people who are at high risk. On the other hand, it is good to see that more people are aware that they have diabetes. That is an indication that our efforts to increase awareness are working, and more importantly, that more people are better prepared to manage this disease and its complications."
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. Generally, it is a disease associated with high levels of blood glucose that are the result of defects in insulin production in the body which causes sugar to build up in the body. The disease can cause serious health problems which may include heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. There are two type of diabetes as described by the American Diabetes Association:
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disorder-a problem with the body's immune system. In a healthy body, specialized cells (called beta cells) in the pancreas make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body to use energy from food. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes beta cells for invaders and attacks them. When enough beta cells are destroyed, symptoms of diabetes appear.
In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells still produce insulin. However, either the cells do not respond properly to the insulin or the insulin produced naturally is not enough to meet the needs of the body. So insulin is usually still present in a person with type 2 diabetes, but it does not work as well as it should. Some people with type 2 can keep it under control by losing weight, changing their diet, and increasing their exercise. Others take one or more medications, including insulin.
Diabetes symptoms often seem harmless which causes many cases to go undiagnosed but early detection and treatment can greatly decrease the chances for developing serious health complications. Diabetes symptoms can include:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Increased fatigue
- Blurry vision
You should consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing one or more other the symptoms.
According to the CDC diabetes increased in both men and women and in all age groups yet most significant is that almost 25 percent of the population 60 years and older had diabetes in 2007. The percentages of minority populations with diabetes were found to be 16.5 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, 11.8 percent of blacks and 10.4 percent of Hispanics (which includes rates for Puerto Ricans of 12.6 percent), 11.9 percent of Mexican Americans and 8.2 percent of Cubans. The rate for Asian Americans was 7.5 percent with whites at 6.6 percent.
The new release of information is an update of estimates reported two years ago. It is published in the 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet developed by CDC together with other agencies under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies.
Estimates of diagnosed diabetes for all counties in the United States were also released and give visibility to those areas within states that have higher diabetes rates. Increases were indicated in areas of the Southeast and Appalachia that have been recognized as being at higher risk for many chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. According to Dr. Albright, "If states know which communities or areas have more people with diabetes, they can use that information to target their efforts or tailor them to meet the needs of specific communities."
For more information on diabetes, visit www.cdc.gov/diabetes.