Hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from diabetes, a disease that affects the body’s ability to manage blood glucose levels. A very serious condition, diabetes can lead to additional health problems including kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, amputations and death. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an agency that provides extensive information about Diabetes and other diseases, including research updates. To date, researchers have been able to identify genetics and “triggers” that cause diabetes, but prevention has yet to be determined.
Diabetes – Facts & Statistics
Diabetes is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people worldwide. In 2014, reports indicated that globally, about 422 million adults suffered from diabetes, up from 108 million in 1980. This is a rise proportionally in adults from 4.7% to 8.5%. It also was the cause of death for over 1.5 million people in 2012. For that same year in the United States, it was estimated that 29.1 million people have diabetes, representing about 9.3% of the population. This total represents 21 million diagnosed cases, but another 8.1 million people who have diabetes remain undiagnosed or treated.
Since many people either will have to deal with this disease themselves or they will know others with diabetes, it is important to learn more about it. There are ways to reduce the severity of the effects of diabetes, and to help your body deal with sugar/glucose blood levels effectively.
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Basic Issues of Diabetes
To understand how diabetes affects health, start with the basic issues of this disease and how these issues can become detrimental. The blood stream circulates around the body, taking and removing important elements to various organs and cells. With diabetes, the most influential organ affected is the pancreas, which produces a specific hormone called insulin. Located near the stomach, the pancreas releases insulin which then is circulated through the blood system, controlling blood sugar levels by taking glucose produced from the food we eat to power the cells of the body.
- A Serious Medical Issue – When you have diabetes, there is not enough insulin produced and sugar then builds up in the blood. Excessive sugar in the blood can have disastrous consequences, including stroke, kidney failure, heart disease, blindness and amputation of lower extremities like toes, feet or legs. In the worst case, death may result. Type 1 diabetes causes the immune system to attack cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Because of the low or no production of insulin when the disease affects the pancreas, the only recourse is to take injections of insulin to control the blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is far more common and also results from low or no production of insulin. It can occur at any age, but most frequently in middle-age and older adults. There are alternative methods for control of Type 2 diabetes.
- Statistics – One of the most alarming statistics of diabetes is that so many people are unaware they have this condition. As of 2014, 1 in 4 people affected by diabetes did not know they had the disease. In that year, 29.1 million people, about 9.3 percent of the U.S. population, had diabetes. In addition to this number, about a third of the total population, or about 86 million persons in the U.S., were not aware they had prediabetes, the condition leading to diabetes. In this condition, the patient’s blood sugar levels measure higher than normal, but not high enough that they would be diagnosed as having diabetes.Of the two main types of diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) that affect a quarter of people over age 65, the Type 2 condition affects about 95 percent of this group of adults over age 65. Children also can have prediabetes and diabetes, in particular Type 1 diabetes. Pregnant women also may develop gestational diabetes that goes away after birth of their baby. About 5% (1.5 million) of diabetes cases are Type 1, often called Juvenile Diabetes; 95% (29.1 million) of other cases are Type 2. Approximately 25% of persons over age 60 have diabetes. 27.8% of all people with diabetes are undiagnosed. Less common types of diabetes include an inherited form, monogenic diabetes, and diabetes that is cystic-fibrosis related.
- Risks – Not being aware that you have diabetes is risky. There are many serious affects generated by this disease, in addition to high blood glucose levels. In addition to those serious complications, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Untreated diabetes can create a variety of medical complications, including death. Diabetes may cause higher risk for heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and problems that require amputation of lower extremities. Other risks include nerve damage and dental disease.
- Causes – The occurrence of diabetes in an individual may be related to several factors, including genetics, age, and obesity. There also are some ethnic groups that are more prone to developing diabetes. It may also develop following surgery or drug use, during pregnancy, or it may be related to environmental factors, malnutrition, infections and other illnesses. Someone who has several of these factors is more likely to develop this disease.
- Who – Children and adults can develop diabetes. Women who have gestational diabetes are more likely to develop diabetes in the following 10 to 20 years, by 35% to 60%. People who are obese are more likely to develop this disease, as are those with a family history of diabetes.
- Where – Diabetes is found in the populations around the world. It is estimated that about 466 million people worldwide suffer from the disease, but a large number of individuals with diabetes do not know yet they have this disease. As symptoms become worse, they may seek medical attention and have their blood glucose levels checked, which is a simple test used in diagnosis. Certain ethnic populations within the United States are at higher risk than whites. These include African Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and Latinos, and some Asian Americans.
- When – Diabetes can develop at any time, from childhood to pregnancy and adulthood. It is more likely to develop in people over age 60, but a large portion of cases are undiagnosed. Getting a blood test for glucose blood levels is a first step to take for many people. Most people have the Type 2, but there are other minor types in addition to Types 1 and 2.
- Symptoms – This disease can develop with many types of physical symptoms that, in general, relate to feeling tired, thirsty or just not up-to-par. People with undiagnosed diabetes suffer symptoms including frequent urination, sudden vision changes, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, excessive thirst and feeling tired very tired. They may notice very dry skin, sores that heal slowly, tingling or numbness in their hands or feet, and they may suffer from more infections than usual. In addition to these symptoms, they may have stomach pains, vomiting or nausea if they have sudden onset of insulin-dependent diabetes (Type 1).
Treatment – Medical Care & Alternatives
Medical care, treatment and alternative care for persons with diabetes has been addressed by both the government and industry. Over time, and with on-going research, new methods for treatment and prevention of diabetes are emerging. If someone is diagnosed with prediabetes, they have tested for blood sugar that is higher than a normal level, but not so high that it is diabetes yet. They are, however, at a higher risk for developing the more serious Type 2 diabetes. In many cases, simple solutions can include moderate weight loss and exercise. This may either prevent or delay development of Type 2 diabetes in adults who are at high risk.
New treatment for diabetes ranges from making dietary changes and increasing exercise to research studies that involve procedures like pancreas transplantation, genetic manipulation and artificial pancreas implantation. Insulin injection remains a solution for many people with Type 1 diabetes.
Elements of Successful Diabetes Programs
- Addressing Root Causes – The first task in resolving diabetes issues is to identify the disease and begin some type of treatment.
- Know Your Blood Sugar Level – Getting tested regularly for blood glucose levels is important for all persons, given the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes. If a person knows they are diabetic, they may test blood sugar levels each morning to help control any spikes. If blood sugar levels are too elevated, that person may suffer from a stroke, pass out or have other serious complications. Normal fasting blood sugar levels for non-diabetics is between 70 and 100 mg/dl. With diabetes, this can be higher, at 80 to 130 mg/dl. Blood is usually tested first thing in the morning. If testing occurs after eating, levels will be higher; normal for someone without diabetes in this case would be under 140 mg/dl, and for those with diabetes, under 180 mg/dl.
- Finding the Right Nutritional Plan – Diet can have a strong influence over the development of diabetes. In some socioeconomic populations, dietary influence and family histories lead to obesity from eating too much of the wrong types of food. Fast foods, sweets, sugary drinks, high calorie snacks and unhealthy meals all contribute to obesity. People who are obese are at higher risk for developing diabetes, especially in those who are over age 50. People who diagnosed with diabetes at age 50 die 6 years earlier than others who do not have diabetes at that age. Much research has been done to develop effective food programs for persons who may be at risk for or who have diabetes. Healthy eating and exercise are the best approach, as would be expected. A diet centered on high nutrient, low glycemic load foods is very helpful for treatment and prevention of diabetes. This would include foods such as: green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and low sugar fruits like berries, oranges, kiwi, and melon.
- Finding Medical Care – If you believe you may have prediabetes or are experiencing symptoms of diabetes, it is critically important to find medical care. Work closely with a professional who is experienced handling the medical issues involved with diabetes patients. Regular blood testing is needed, as is direction for dietary choices. If you are obese but feeling okay, it is a great idea to have your blood glucose levels tested at your next check-up, just to determine your health prospects, since being obese already can lead to a variety of serious medical problems.
- Long Term Prospects – You can live a healthier lifestyle and help prolong your life by taking care of diabetes issues as early as possible. If you are overweight or obese, age 45 or higher, and you have symptoms of diabetes, it is time to act. Over 20% of health care spending is for people who have diagnosed diabetes. Diabetes kills more people in America each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined; taking steps now to reduce the effects of prediabetes or diabetes on your life is a simple way to improve your future and lifespan.
Information about diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes is readily available from medical personnel and online resources. You can start by learning your BMI level at the CDC’s website: https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx. Learn all you can from reliable government and industry sources; the more you know about this disease and how it can affect your well-being, the better off you and your loved ones will be in the long run.