Discouraging News or an Encouraging Invitation?

July 1, 2014 in Diabetes, Diabetes Management, Foodland Chronicles, Health, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

On June 10, 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report related to diabetes. It was somewhat discouraging to learn that more than 29 million Americans (9.3 percent of our population – we’re almost at one in ten) have diabetes; the number was up by 3 million over the 2010 estimate. One of the most challenging parts of the report is that one in four people with diabetes doesn’t know he or she has it.

Another enormous concern in the report is that 86 million adults have prediabetes – their blood sugar is not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. If this 86 million don’t lose weight and get moderately active, 15 to 30 percent are expected to develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

Should these numbers be alarming? If not alarmed, I’m surely sobered by this news, because the media has been playing down the obesity problem, but these statistics show that this lifestyle disease, diabetes, continues to consume more lives.  This news should not be ignored as just another media report of health risks we cannot do anything about.  Taking it in this way is a sure way to forget it and move on, with a bit more gloom in the dark cloud shrouding our future.  But it can also be taken as a positive, even friendly invitation for us to take note and make some changes, especially if we are inactive, overweight and have not had our blood tested. Why is it an important concern?  People with diabetes have an increased risk of serious health complications including vision loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, limb amputation, and premature death. One person I know thinks it is a non-problem, you can just start taking some medications, she says.  No.  It is a lifestyle problem. The medications lead you into more and more dependence, until you are taking insulin, then other drugs to manage the problems of deteriorating organs and functions. Life-style changes can slow or even reverse the need to take medicines, and maintain your capacities and vigorous enjoyment of life.

Ninety to 95 percent of diabetes cases are the type 2 variety; according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. This statistic offers a bit of hope. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, which is often inherited and involves destruction of most of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Presently this destruction can’t be turned around. You have to learn to live by using insulin, to replace what the pancreas cells provided. Inactivity and overweight make it much worse. But type 2 is a result of inactivity and overweight often due to a diet overloaded with simple, refined, carbohydrates and fats; and therein lies the hope – it can be treated, at the gym or walking path and at the grocery store.

The total medical costs and lost work and wages associated with diabetes and its complications rose from $174 billion in 2007 to $245 billion in 2012. Please note – this is billions, with a ‘B.’ This is a devastating cost of human health and life; and also an immense cost to our society.

How can we reduce the burden to self, family and our country? I can never write about diabetes without using my husband’s case as an example of what is possible. Although a third of our county is at risk for developing diabetes, it can be prevented with lifestyle changes. People can avoid the complications of diabetes and live full, active lives by getting medical care and making the necessary changes that will provide the health they desire. That’s exactly what my husband, Vic did. He was diagnosed ten years ago. He had full-blown diabetes; no early warning of prediabetes. He immediately set about to learn as much as possible about the disease and how to treat it. After working to change his eating and exercising habits for four months and losing about 35 pounds (now holding at or below 40 lbs lost), he was able to discontinue his oral medication. That certainly, was not the end of the story. He continues to check his blood sugar, exercise, maintain a healthy weight and eat an excellent diet.

We were just traveling this past week, and someone in the TSA said that people over 75 could keep their shoes on; he took advantage of that offer. They were shocked that he was 77 years old. He does look young! I believe it is related to his diet and exercise. I’m grateful that he has taken the steps to change his lifestyle, which gives him the opportunity to live an active, vital life. He is a strong advocate of the Mediterranean style of eating we advocate, and offers a strong case study that demonstrates how well it can work.

As discouraging and alarming the news from the CDC is, maybe we as individuals can use the numbers as a friendly invitation to encourage and motivate ourselves to begin making the necessary changes in our lifestyle. After posting Keeping the Diabetes Monster Away from Your Door on January 7, 2014, I posted three articles during the following three weeks about making changes – maybe reviewing these will give you a place to start. This is worth the effort – it can be done.