Prime Time Living - Page 4 - The Big D – Diabetes

Prime Time Living
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The Big D – Diabetes
A health epidemic that deserves our attention By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

Everywhere you look, diabetes is in the news and there’s a good reason for that. It’s because there is an epidemic going on, directly connected to the growing incidence of obesity in this country. When you look at the statistics, it’s downright terrifying.

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) publishes updated figures on diabetes for the scientific community to help them in their efforts to prevent and control the disease. Numbers from the 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report are staggering: 30.3 million people have diabetes (9.4 percent of the U.S. population). Of this number, almost one-fourth are undiagnosed.

Of even more concern, the percentage of adults with diabetes increased with age, reaching a high of 25.2 percent among those aged 65 years or older, according to the report.

With the cohort of Baby Boomers turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 a day through 2030, the number of those with diabetes will only increase, as will the percentage of those who are undiagnosed. If you have diabetes, you are also at a much greater risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetic eye disease, in addition to problems with your kidneys, blood vessels and your nerves. Nerve damage causes you to lose feeling in your feet and damaged blood vessels mean your extremities don’t get enough blood or oxygen. If you get cuts or blisters on your feet, you can’t always feel them, so they don’t heal. Untreated, these could cause you to lose a limb.

Scared yet? If not, you should be. Diabetes is both preventable and treatable. Unfortunately, too many people act just like John Smith (his story is on page 8) and bury their heads in the sand, ignore warning signs, don’t get regular check-ups and hope it will go away. It won’t.

What Is Diabetes?

“Diabetes,” according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.” When you eat, your body takes the food and converts it into glucose – blood sugar – which your cells need for energy. This process uses insulin, made by your pancreas. The insulin shuttles the glucose from the blood stream into the cells where it is converted to energy. It is almost like a key opening a door. Without insulin, or enough insulin, the blood sugar stays in your blood instead of where it is needed: in your cells.

There are two primary types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, what we used to refer to as juvenile diabetes. Your body does not make insulin. Usually diagnosed with young people, it’s now happening in adults as well. Type 2, the more common form of diabetes, happens when your body doesn’t make enough insulin or uses it ineffectively. Once you have diabetes, there is no cure. But – and this is very important – you can control your disease.

Warning Signs and Risks

There are some symptoms that suggest you may be getting diabetes, also called pre-diabetes, but not everyone has these. An equal number of those with Type 2 have no symptoms whatsoever and only learn of their high blood glucose levels during a regular doctor’s visit. Others have signs that develop over time, so you may not recognize the need to be checked. It could be, as with John Smith, something that is uncovered due to another health issue like heart disease.

Common symptoms include increased hunger, increased thirst, urinating often, fatigue, numbness in your hands or feet, blurred vision and unexplained weight loss. Those over 45 years of age are also at greater risk.

There are some genetic and familial risks that include obesity, heart disease and age. If you have a family member with diabetes or a tendency to be overweight or obese, your chances increase. Once you’re over 45, you should get checked

Big D continued on page 20