The incidence of Type 2 diabetes has increased significantly over the last two decades, affecting both women and men alike. Obesity, often the result of unhealthy diets and lack of exercise, is a major contributor to the development of Type 2 diabetes. But despite the large number of cases diagnosed in the United States, many Americans still lack basic knowledge about the disease.
A new survey from the American Diabetes Association asked participants to rank which disease: diabetes, breast cancer or AIDS, was responsible for the largest number of deaths annually. Surprisingly, less than half chose diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has long been implicated as a risk factor in the development of heart disease, the leading cause of death in women and men in our country.
In this country, complications from diabetes claim more lives every year than breast cancer and AIDS combined but according to the survey results, roughly 2 in 5 people or 42 percent chose diabetes. The remaining 58 percent had no idea diabetes could result in death.
"Many Americans have a very limited understanding of the basic facts about diabetes, as well as the serious consequences for health that accompany the disease," commented Sue McLaughlin, RD, CDE, President, Health Care & Education, American Diabetes Association, in a media alert. She blames the problem on a combination of factors including denial of the disease and promotion of inaccurate information or myths surrounding diabetes.
According to McLaughlin, another reason many people are unaware of their risk is a: "lack of resources to access education that would enable them to learn more about the disease, and take an active role in managing it."
According to Alfred Padilla, MD, an endocrinologist at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, CT, the role of health care providers cannot be ignored. "The main culprits for failing grades are the doctors. "With managed care, docs have very little time to interact with patients," he says, and as a result, "this gives rise to what I call the "200 club" (weight 200 lbs, fasting glucose 200, LDL 200)." Patients are being told that they are fine, when in actuality they may be at risk.
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include: a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese, a family history of the disease and a personal history of gestational diabetes (for women.) "Risk factors multiply," says Padilla and as physicians, "we need to pay meticulous attention to lipids, blood pressure and lifestyle issues, which are probably more ignored than glucose."
Diabetes results from the body's inability to produce or respond to insulin, a hormone necessary for the absorption of sugar. There are several types of diabetes, but no matter what type a person has, the result is: too much glucose or sugar in the bloodstream. The disease can wreak havoc on the body and result in blood vessel, heart, kidney and eye diseases. It can also shorten a person's life.
There are effective ways to lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes. Even if diabetes runs in a person's family, healthy lifestyle choices are essential.
•Diet: studies show that choosing low-fat, low-calorie, high fiber foods can help control blood sugar levels.
•Exercise: people who are in good physical shape have a lower risk for diabetes. According to Padilla, people should, "exercise to a pulse rate of 120 for at least thirty minutes per day."
•Lose the extra pounds: studies show that losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight, if a person is overweight or obese, can significantly lower the risk of diabetes. Long term goals should include keeping the weight in a healthy range with healthy diet and fitness choices.
Despite the lack of knowledge about the health consequences from diabetes, taking an active role in your own health care can go a long way in preventing the disease and unwanted complications. Annual check-ups with a doctor are recommended, as well. According to Padilla: "Prediabetes occurs several years before diabetes," making screening an essential part of the fight against the disease.
American Diabetes Association