What could be worse than a disease which affects over 300 million people throughout the world? A disease which doubles the risk of a stroke or a heart attack. Which is chronic, meaning that there’s no cure, and progressive, meaning that it gets worse and worse over time, unless it’s well-managed.
The disease is Type 2 diabetes, which results in high levels of glucose (a sugar) in the blood stream. Over time (10 to 15 years or so), these high levels can cause progressive, irreversible damage to tiny blood vessels of the eyes, the kidneys, and the feet and lower legs. The result may be blindness, kidney failure, and tissue damage necessitating amputation of part or all of the feet and legs.
The main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are a combination of things a person can’t control and things he can control to a large extent. The first category includes ethnic/ genetic factors and age. The second category includes obesity and a “sedentary lifestyle.”
How diabetes is getting worse every day
It has reached epidemic proportions in 200 countries
A recent study, published in the journal “Lancet” found that over the past 30 years the number of people with type 2 diabetes has more than doubled from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2010.
Check it out for yourself in the amazing graphic accessible here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/health/weight-of-the-world-bmi/ Click the BMI tab to see how obesity has increased in 200 countries and regions throughout the world, then the Diabetes tab to see how the percentage of women and of men with the disease has also increased.
It is striking people at younger and younger ages
Type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult onset” diabetes to distinguish it from the far-less-common Type 1 or “juvenile onset” diabetes. But now, according to Dr. David Kendall of the American Diabetes Association,
Children and young adults and young middle-aged people are the groups in which the rates are apparently growing the fastest.
And Ann Albright of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says,
The longer you live with the disease, the more likely you are to develop the complications. If you develop diabetes at a young age, the changes are greater of a complication at a younger age.
Its costs are enormous and growing
The costs for treating Type 2 diabetes, including the cost of kidney dialysis and amputation as the disease progresses, are huge and increasing. In 2007 diabetes cost the United States $174 billion. That total was a combination of $116 billion in direct costs of treatment and $58.3 billion in indirect costs of lost productivity. And the prognosis is often not good. Treatment for end-stage kidney failure, for example, may prolong life only a short time and markedly reduce the quality of that life.
What do you think? There’s been scathing criticism in the U.S. of the so-called “Nanny state” when government uses initiatives to educate parents and children about the importance of eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise. Michelle Obama, for one, has been criticized for her Let’s Move! program to get children interested in being active and eating food that’s good for them. If government does not address this huge public-health issue, who does? Is there anything that any of us—parents, doctors, teachers, and others—can do to help? Any ideas?
Photo by yourdon