Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Lifestyle Biggest Culprit in Diabetes Epidemic

Lifestyle Biggest Culprit in Diabetes Epidemic

There is an epidemic in this country that affects nearly 8 percent of the population -- but is expected to impact 33 percent within the next generation.

It claims more than 200,000 lives and costs at least $174 billion a year.

This deadly and costly disease is diabetes.

"The numbers are staggering," says Pam Drake, a diabetes clinical nurse specialist at Cox Health. Based on World Health Organization projections, by 2030 more than 350 million people will have the disease worldwide. "It's going to be more than we can even imagine costwise," says Drake.

The American Diabetes Association predicts that one in three children born today has the risk of developing diabetes in his or her lifetime, says Renee Steele-Paulsell, executive director of the ADA of southwest Missouri. "You don't have to be too smart mathematically to understand this is going to break our health care budget if we don't get a handle on diabetes."

The rising numbers -- 17.9 million diagnosed, 5.7 million undiagnosed, and 57 million considered "pre-diabetic" -- will put an enormous strain on the country's health care system, says Dr. Larry Chase, president of the ADA of southwest Missouri board of directors and former medical director for the Cox Diabetes Center.

If nothing is done to stem this epidemic, the cost to our health-care system will soar "the likes of which we've never seen before," Chase says.

While type 1 diabetes -- formerly known as juvenile diabetes -- is a genetic condition that cannot be prevented, it is type 2 diabetes that is the culprit in this epidemic. Type 2 diabetes was formerly known as adult onset diabetes because it was most common for someone in their 40s or older to be diagnosed. Children -- as young as preteens -- are now starting to get type 2 diabetes.

Genetics also plays a role in type 2 diabetes -- it is more common in some ethnic groups -- but the big culprit in the epidemic is lifestyle. Poor eating habits, obesity and sedentary lives combine with genetic factors to produce a lethal mix called type 2 diabetes.

It is lethal because the complications of diabetes include heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure and more. When the typical case of type 2 diabetes was found in a middle aged person, they had an estimated 25 years to live with the disease and cope with the complications. "But what happens if I'm 12?" asks Chase. "Now I'm looking at six decades of worrying about complications."

Unlike type 1, which is caused by a pancreas that will not produce insulin, type 2 occurs when either the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or the body ignores the insulin.

Neither type can be cured, but type 1 can often be controlled with insulin therapy and other treatment.

Beyond lifestyle corrections, Type 2 has a variety of medications available to adults, but few approved for children, Chase says.

Research continues for both types of diabetes, but the most important steps anyone can take is prevention and detection, says Chase.

Eating healthy and getting exercise to keep fit can often keep diabetes away and will certainly help minimize complications if diabetes strikes.

Regular medical care, including testing for blood sugar, can sound the alert if diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition exists.

"Know your score. Get screened. Get routine checkups," Chase advises. "Don't let diabetes sneak up on you."

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