The Centers for Disease Control reports that 26 million people living in the US have type I or II diabetes. This means that a startling 8.3 percent of the US population has been afflicted by these diseases.
Even more shocking is the fact that nearly 80 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes, a condition that increases the likelihood of developing type II diabetes later in life. Considering the seriousness of these diseases and their long-term effect on the future of America, we must take a closer look at this problem.
Who or What is Responsible for Diabetes Increasing Among the US Population?
When you read reports such as the one released by the CDC, you often stop to wonder how things could have gotten to this point. Are people just naturally prone to developing diabetes? Is it a problem caused by the foods we eat? Is it a lack of exercise?
Yes, these are definite possibilities. According to the CDC, the most at risk populations are people aged 65 and older. Although the disease affects every racial group, is also more prevalent among blacks and Hispanic populations than Asians or whites.
There is a correlation between poor nutrition and obesity (read Thinning Wallets and Bulging Waistlines). People who live on a fixed income have fewer options for choosing healthy meals, this is often the case for senior citizens and those who live below the federal poverty level.
Moreover, as our energy demands decrease with age, our ability to process nutrients tends to decline. A young, healthy person will burn calories much faster than a senior citizen. And if you take into account that many senior citizens are less active (and possibly disabled), this increases their risk for adult onset diabetes.
No Easy Answers
There are no shortcuts to curtailing this problem. Just as obesity has become epidemic in the US, diabetes will be a threat to the quality and quantity of life for tens of millions of Americans far into the foreseeable future. Both type I ad type II diabetes can kill.
Even though there are less people diagnosed with juvenile diabetes than those suffering from type II diabetes, the fact remains that the disease can be debilitating. People suffering from juvenile diabetes don't make enough of the vital hormone because their insulin producing cells are attacked by the body's own immune system.
People suffering from type I diabetes must rely on insulin replacement therapy to survive. If they don't receive insulin from a shot or a pump, they risk going into a coma and death. So, in the case of type I diabetes, it becomes necessary to find a cure for the disease - to prevent the body from attacking itself.
Adult onset diabetes is somewhat different. It is more easily manageable than type I diabetes. The most common prevention methods that come to mind are exercise and diet. Regardless of age, an ever increasing number of people simply don't get enough exercise.
Thus, one solution is to get active. Get the body moving. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a point to participate in that activity on a regular basis. It doesn't matter if it's raking the yard, shoveling snow, doing pushups in your room, walking around the block, or bed flapping your arms while sitting in your chair or lying in bed (such as the case for those whom maybe bed-ridden), any form of exercise will burn fat.
But what about the other issue? The American diet? A band-aid solution to the problem of obesity and diabetes is to simply say: "Don't eat so much." but that wouldn't be addressing the real heart of the matter. How much we eat is as important as what we eat.
Skipping meals only confuses the body's metabolism, erroneously switching it to famine mode whereby it will begin to store more fat in anticipation of starvation. And there are already millions of people who do not eat the standard three meals per day, much less the resources to eat more often than this.
In other words, if your don't eat enough food, you risk becoming overweight or obese.
So, avoiding meals might not be such a good idea after all. What we can do is better educate people as to which foods that are higher in junk calories, and pointing out healthy alternatives. But healthy foods are more expensive, and not something that people on fixed budgets can afford. And when faced with the choice between eating something (fattening) versus nothing at all, you can expect that most people will choose food over hunger.
A solution to this would be government intervention. Impose stricter guidelines on food manufacturers that will force them to prepare healthier meals and to market these products to consumers.
But how far can government intervention go before it becomes intrusive? And should the government decide what is best for us?
What You Can Do
As you can see, there are no easy fixes for this problem. But something can and must be done about. So what do you suggest? How do you think we should go about turning the tide on diabetes? Tell us about it in the comments.
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National Diabetes Fact Sheet 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf
Diabetes mellitus type 1. wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus_type_1#Pathophysiology
"Diabetes Hits America Hard: American Diabetes Is On The Rise" copyright 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.