By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
The rising incidence of diabetes shows no sign of decline, according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report issued October 22, 2010. Whether diagnosed with it or not, 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. currently have diabetes, and researchers expect this number to increase to 1 in 5, if not 1 in 3, adults within the next forty years. The vast majority of people with diabetes develop the type II variety, which is preventable, in most cases, through healthy lifestyle choices.
The CDCs prediction is alarming for several reasons. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure, and is responsible for about 60 percent of lower limb amputations. Diabetics also tend to develop hypertension and nervous system damage, and are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than non-diabetics. Medical and other costs arising from prediabetes (where blood glucose levels are higher-than-normal, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis), diabetes and related health conditions in the U.S. amounted to over $200 billion in 2007; this figure is expected to increase proportionally with incidence of diabetes.
While the CDC’s prediction of increased incidence was not surprising to Dr. M. Sue Kirkman, vice president of clinical affairs at the American Diabetes Association, the actual numbers were “concerning and shocking” to her. On a good note, Kirkman acknowledged that the numbers of diabetics will necessarily increase, in part, due to a continuing trend where diabetics are living longer with the disease than they used to. Also positive was the CDC researchers’ conclusion that the projected increase could be considerably reduced with “reasonably effective preventative interventions.”
Preventing, as well as living a longer and better quality life with, diabetes is possible through simple lifestyle habits. Eating a non-inflammatory (low-glycemic) diet can help a person keep insulin levels under control to help prevent pre-diabetes, diabetes and overweight, as can regular, moderate exercise such as briskly walking 30 minutes per day. Stress management through mind-body practices like mediation, yoga, and Tai Chi can also prevent excess insulin release that can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. Additionally, grounding (Earthing) may be useful in preventing insulin resistance, as it can assuage inflammation in the body; researchers believe that an excess of inflammatory substances released from fatty tissue, particularly in the abdomen, plays a role in the development of type II diabetes and obesity.
Recognizing risk factors for, and symptoms of, diabetes can also help people prevent or manage the disease and stave off related health complications. Risk factors for diabetes include having a family history of it, high blood pressure or heart disease, and ethnicity (it is more common in African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Pacific Islanders/Asian Americans, and the elderly than Caucasian Americans). Being overweight, especially with more fat in the abdominal area, is the most common, as well as controllable, risk factor.
Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, unusual thirst and/or weight loss, extreme hunger, irritability, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing of cuts and bruises, tingling or numbness in the hands/feet, and frequent gum, skin, and bladder infections. Oftentimes, though, people with type II diabetes are asymptomatic. Taking the American Diabetes Association online diabetes risk test is one way to decide whether medical testing is merited. Doctors can measure blood sugar to determine if a person is prediabetic through a fasting plasma glucose test (FPG), oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), and /or A1C test.
As the CDC researchers suggested, the projected increase in the incidence of diabetes does not have to happen; it is the likely outcome if Americans continue the trend of a pre-diabetic lifestyle. While preventing diabetes is paramount, catching it in its earliest stages is also crucial. Learning as much as you can about diabetes, and how to prevent or manage it, are your best defenses against this impending epidemic. Widespread public awareness of the problem and solutions is necessary and possible. We can, collectively, help change the CDC’s prediction.
References and Resources:
- Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, et al. Projection of the year 2050 burden of diabetes in the U.S. adult population: dynamic modeling of incidence, mortality, and prediabetes prevalence. Population Health Metrics, 2010, 8:29. doi:10.1186/1478-7954-8-29 [Full Free Text]
- Landau, Elizabeth. “Diabetes numbers expected to triple in 2050.” CNN.com. October 22, 2010.
- American Diabetes Association
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