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Diabetes: America's Newest Health Epidemic (Infographic)

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Diabetes: A Health Epidemic

As one of today’s fastest growing health challenges, diabetes has become increasingly prevalent in the United States. In fact, the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has risen from 10.4 million people in 1998 to 21 million people today, according to the CDC, and the number is expected to rise even more in the near future.
 
The American Diabetes Association projects that one in three Americans living today will eventually develop diabetes, and that by 2050, the number of diagnoses will increase by 165 percent. As we recognize American Diabetes Month during November, let’s take a closer look at why more people are developing the disease and what our UnityPoint Clinic providers say we can do to reverse this trend.

Diabetes Infographic

The Rise of Diabetes in the United States

The number of people living with diabetes isn’t just up in the United States, but all over the world. While diabetes is now a problem that affects people everywhere, the CDC estimates that as many as 29.1 million Americans have diabetes (21 million who are diagnosed and another 8.1 million who are undiagnosed). This means that over 9 percent of the United States population has some form of diabetes.

The rise in diabetes incidence across the United States is largely linked to the following three factors:

  1. More Americans are becoming overweight or obese and increasingly physically inactive – both known risk factors for diabetes.
  2. A person’s chances of developing diabetes increases with age. Now that the baby-boomer population is aging, more people from this generation are being diagnosed with the disease.
  3. Type 2 diabetes is especially common among African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and certain Asian populations, which are all growing populations in the United States.

Diabetes Complications

Type 2 Diabetes accounts for the vast majority of all diabetes cases in the United States, and is caused by poor nutrition, being obese and lack of exercise – factors that can mostly be prevented. Many of the additional health complications associated with Type 2 diabetes don’t surface until after many years, sometimes decades, of having the disease. Having diabetes raises a person’s risk of developing not only short-term health complications, but also long-term health complications such as:

Pre-Diabetes Complication

Type 2 Diabetes accounts for the vast majority of all diabetes cases in the United States, and is caused by poor nutrition, being obese and lack of exercise – factors that can mostly be prevented. Many of the additional health complications associated with Type 2 diabetes don’t surface until after many years, sometimes decades, of having the disease. Having diabetes raises a person’s risk of developing not only short-term health complications, but also long-term health complications such as:

  • Microvascular complications that cause blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage.
  • Macrovascular complications that cause heart attacks, stroke and poor circulation.

Ask the Experts – What You Can Do to Stop the Epidemic?

An estimated 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes, described as having blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. If you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you can prevent diabetes from developing. Losing just 6-7 percent of your body weight can prevent or delay pre-diabetes from progressing to diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. 

Whether your goal is to prevent or manage diabetes, you can help reduce your chances of developing diabetes by eating healthfully, controlling your weight and seeing your health care providers as recommended.

“Regular exercise and keeping the weight off are keys to prevention. Walking at least 30 minutes at least 5 times a week is an excellent program that most adults can do,” says David Trachtenbarg, M.D., medical director for the Diabetes Care Center at UnityPoint Health – Methodist | Proctor. “Content of the diet is controversial, but sticking to what is normally considered a healthy diet and emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein like poultry and fish is best.”

Be involved with your management plan.

If you already have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of complications by actively working with your health care team to keep your blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
 
“Diabetes will need your attention for the rest of your life, and you are a very important part of developing a treatment plan and determining your outcome,” says Amy Sinnwell, B.S.N., R.N., diabetes education program coordinator at UnityPoint Clinic – Diabetes & Endocrinology at United Medical Park. “Learn what foods cause your blood glucose to spike. Use your meter as a tool to help you better understand how foods and activity affect your levels.  Go to your provider for frequent A1 monitoring; ask to see a certified diabetes educator or dietitian. It’s never too late to improve your health.”

While the number of people living with diabetes continues to increase in the United States, diabetes prevention is proven, possible and powerful. If you haven’t done so already, take the next step to prevent or manage diabetes by talking to your doctor about your personal risk and whether or not you should be tested.
 
Don’t have a primary care physician yet? Use our online Find a Doctor Tool to locate a physician in your area.