November: National Diabetes Month
According to the American Diabetes Association, "diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), or simply, diabetes, is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin." Insulin is the hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. There are two types of diabetes:
Type I diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Only 5-10% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.
Type II diabetes occurs when either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin that is being produced. This is the most common form of diabetes.
Diabetes is such a pervasive and destructive disease that it seems important to take a quick glance at some surprising statistics in hopes of bringing awareness to the disease:
- 29 million Americans have diabetes. 8 million of these individuals are undiagnosed and thus not receiving proper care and treatment.
- Almost 25% or 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65 have diabetes
- Nearly 80 million Americans may have "pre-diabetes" which poses long term risks for the development of diabetic complications
- In America, race may also play a factor as Hispanics and African Americans show higher rates of diabetes compared to other racial groups
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. But this number may be much higher due to failure to report diabetes on many death certificates.
- As many as 70% of diabetics may also have hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Rates of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease in diabetics are greatly higher than non-diabetics
- Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in America
- 70,000 lower extremity amputations occur each year in patients with diabetes
- As much as $176 billion is spent annually on medical and health related expenses in the care of diabetes in the U.S.
These are sobering, yet moving statistics. National Diabetes Awareness Month is meant to be an opportunity where health care providers, government agencies, and other public health organizations can leverage their resources and people interactions to increase public knowledge of this horrible condition. With better awareness, both of the disease and it's potential complications, we can work harder to institute lifestyle changes, patient-centered glucose monitoring and accountability, and treatment protocols that ensure better outcomes. We can work to curb childhood obesity which is a definite factor in the development of diabetes. Promotion of better exercise and physical activity programs can help. Increasing awareness about the need for monitoring and reporting blood sugar levels could improve the relevance of treatment goals. Promoting changes in eating habits and helping people identifying types of foods that play a role in diabetes would also be of great benefit.
At the heart of it all is awareness. So, please take a moment to pass along this post to someone you know and care about. Awareness can be a life-changer!