November is American Diabetes Month. With nearly 26 million diabetics and 79 million pre-diabetics in the United States, those numbers are sure to quadruple by the year 2030, the World Health Organization predicts.
In my opinion, the problem stems from the lack of intervention by the local, state and federal governments. Make no mistake about it, we are at a crossroad for treating diabetes. But unless our health authorities act sooner rather than later, we might not be able to move beyond the point of no return.
What is diabetes? It is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Each one, however, plays a different role in affecting or attacking the body.
Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent childhood or adult-onset diabetes) is characterized by the body's lack of insulin production.
Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent) occurs when the body ineffectively uses insulin. This is often manifested as a result of excessive body weight and a lack of physical activity.
Gestational diabetes is recognized during a woman's pregnancy.
While the stats for diabetes in the United States are alarming, the numbers are unnerving when diabetic sufferers worldwide are counted. According to WHO estimates, 347 million people worldwide were affected in 2004. Of that number, 3.4 million people died as a consequence of high blood sugar.
In the year 2010, for example, there were 25.8 million Americans with diabetes and another 1.9 million new cases being reported among individuals ages 20 and above, according to the Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention. In Shelby County, based on CDC data from 2009, 11.7 percent of the population had diabetes, and in most cases, that percentage has risen.
Why has diabetes become so widespread? Because people generally don't take the disease seriously, and most people don't go to the doctor until it's a little too late. Affected individuals are aware of their illness, but fail to acknowledge the truth.
With diabetes soon to become the No. 1 killer of Americans, the health professionals and those who are concerned about the welfare of humanity must remain alert of this silent danger. The alarm is sounding, but it seems that no one is listening to or observing the changing signals.
Everyone must do his or her part to understand the truth about diabetes and how it is affecting the lives of so many precious young people who are grappling with the various forms of cancer, heart disease, blindness, strokes and amputations.
The cost associated with diabetes is staggering. For example: $1 of every $5 spent on healthcare is associated with diabetes. Here's another way to look at it: out of every $20 spent, $5 goes to the treatment of diabetes. That means we must prevent or control this deadly disease now!
The cost of preventing and controlling diabetes is astronomical. In 2007, $174 billion was spent on diabetes and the health problems associated with it, such as lost workdays, restricted activities, and disabilities. There is much blame to go around.
The quality of life cannot improve if diabetes is left to fester and ravage the body. Let's not fool ourselves. We all have to take the initiative to arrest this devastating disease, such as choosing a healthier lifestyle, which includes food preparation, exercising, relaxation and getting the proper rest.
As for our children, we must make the proper decisions for them because they are innocent and often influenced by the false and misleading advertisements they observe from watching television. As adults, we make the mistake of not reading food labels, which in most cases, is misleading.
Should the state, local and federal governments be responsible, along with food manufacturers, when a catastrophic disease such as diabetes wreaks havoc on the body? Much of the responsibility should be placed at the doorstep of diabetes sufferers who fail to take care of themselves.
It's perfectly clear that the onset of diabetes has caused great concern worldwide. It has forced society to make some major changes. In the process, we must continually educate individuals locally, nationally and globally of the impact that diabetes is causing and the apparent dangers it presents to everyone.
Are you one of the millions of Americans walking around with diabetes and don't even know it? The main focus of Diabetes Awareness Month is to encourage diabetics to eat healthy, improve their exercise regimens, and improve their overall general health.