A Growing Problem
Diabetes is a growing problem. Since 1980, it has tripled! One reason cited is that we have an aging population and diabetes is more common in older people. Almost half of the people with diabetes are over the age of 65. Another trend is that more Americans are overweight, with about one third of us considered “obese.”
About 26 million Americans have diabetes and most of these people have "Type Two." Researchers believe that about 80 million more of us have a condition now referred to as “pre-diabetes” and there are potentially 7 million Americans who have Diabetes and do not yet know it.
One alarming reality, however, is that even children are being diagnosed with diabetes more than ever before. Typically, only “Type One” diabetes was found in children. This type of diabetes was so common in children it used to be called “juvenile” diabetes and type two was called “adult-onset” diabetes. But, type two now accounts for about 20% of all new cases of diabetes in American children – up from 5% in 1994! In Japan, the incidence of Type Two Diabetes almost doubled in the same time period! What is the real difference between types?
Type One vs. Type Two Diabetes
Type One Diabetes is thought to be genetic and less common. Often, Type One Diabetes becomes apparent early in life and is caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin. Type Two is much more common and progresses over time. Type Two diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces normal levels of insulin, but the body becomes resistant to the insulin. Type two is thought to be related to lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise. Both types have similar symptoms, but in type one, being overweight is not necessarily a cause or symptom of the disease.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
- Watching a lot of TV
- Leading a Sedentary Lifestyle
- Not enough cardiovascular exercise
- Eating a diet low in vegetables and high in fats and sugars
- Being overweight
Early Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
- Increased urination and thirst
- Potential Weight Loss not explained by a change in diet
- Feeling Tired all the time
- Dry, itchy skin
- Blurry Vision
- In women, bladder and vaginal infections
- Increased skin infections and/or slow-healing wounds
- Gum tenderness and swelling
- Tingling in the feet and hands
When a person’s body cells stop accepting sugars (glucose), there is excess glucose in the body. This is part of why you become thirsty and urinate frequently in order to flush and get rid of the excessive glucose in the body. This extra glucose in the body can wreak havoc on the body’s organs like the eyes, blood vessels, kidneys, heart, and nerves. It can also interfere with the body’s ability to heal wounds.
The most common causes of death for people with diabetes are coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. If a person already has other cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, this can only increase the risk of this complication.
Most new cases of blindness in the US are thought to be caused by diabetes. Diabetes causes other vision problems such as blurred vision and retinopathy.
A person with diabetes has a 25% greater chance of having a limb amputated than the general population. One way to manage this complication is to regularly check feet for injuries or infections. Since diabetes causes nerve damage and numbness in the extremities, infections in minor wounds are sometimes not noticed and can become severe and irreversible.
Kidney dysfunction is much more common in people with diabetes – especially in those who do not manage the disease well.
The good news is that Diabetes is manageable with medication, diet and exercise. The bad news is that once you get it, it is unlikely to ever be cured completely. It is a progressive disease, so the earlier it is caught, the better it can usually be managed and the less likely you are to experience the worst complications. Many people who catch the disease early are able to control it with diet and exercise – others need to either take or inject insulin to control their blood glucose levels.
Prevention - Beyond Diet and Exercise
Of course, diet and exercise and important; but, there are other things you can do as well. Diet and exercise are still the main idea. It is never too late to get in shape and lose weight and improve your health and your outlook for your later years. Making a commitment to changes does not mean being perfect, but rather focusing every day on ways to stay healthy and just doing your best.
Focusing on increasing vegetables, good quality grains, and lean proteins like fish, low-fat dairy, and beans can go a long way toward improving health. Limit junk, processed, and sugary foods. At least half of the content of each meal should consist of vegetables and fruits.
Cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis can potentially prevent diabetes. This means at least 3-4 times per week getting your heart rate up for about 30 minutes by walking, biking, swimming, running, and/or aerobics.
Limit the TV
For some reason unknown, those who are sedentary because they watch TV are even more likely to develop diabetes than others who are equally inactive. It may be because TV watchers are also heavy junk food eaters, but there may be other issues at play as well involving sleep. In any event, limiting the time spent as a couch potato may go a long way toward preventing diabetes.
Get More Sleep
People who get less than 6 hours of sleep per night have a whopping 60% better chance of developing diabetes!! Because electronic screens emit light directly to our eyes, there are some theories that TV watching can interfere with hormones that are triggered by light and darkness. These hormones, like melatonin, regulate sleep. Losing sleep makes our appetite hormones and our cortisol levels go crazy – both of which are involved in our regulation of glucose. You should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Eat Breakfast Every Day at the Same Time
Eating breakfast each day allows your body to better regulate hunger and glucose throughout the day. People who eat breakfast every day around the same time have a 34% lower chance of developing diabetes.