Diabetes: Getting worse every day in every way

What could be worse than a disease which affects over 300 million people throughout the world?

A disease which doubles the risk of a stroke or a heart attack. Which is chronic, meaning that there’s no cure, and progressive, meaning that it gets worse and worse over time, unless it’s well-managed.

Long-term damage

The disease is Type 2 diabetes, which results in high levels of glucose (a sugar) in the blood stream. Over time (10 to 15 years or so), these high levels can cause progressive, irreversible damage to tiny blood vessels of the eyes, the kidneys, and the feet and lower legs. The result may be blindness, kidney failure, and tissue damage necessitating amputation of part or all of the feet and legs.

The main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are a combination of things a person can’t control and things he can control to a large extent. The first category includes ethnic/ genetic factors and age. The second category includes obesity and a “sedentary lifestyle.”

How diabetes is getting worse every day

It has reached epidemic proportions in 200 countries

A recent study, published in the journal “Lancet” found that over the past 30 years the number of people with type 2 diabetes has more than doubled from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2010.

Check it out for yourself in the amazing graphic accessible here:    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/health/weight-of-the-world-bmi/

Click the BMI tab to see how obesity has increased in 200 countries and regions throughout the world, then the Diabetes  tab to see how the percentage of women and of men with the disease has also increased.

It is striking people at younger and younger ages 

Type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult onset” diabetes to distinguish it from the far-less-common Type 1 or “juvenile onset” diabetes. But now, according to Dr. David Kendall of the American Diabetes Association,

Children and young adults and young middle-aged people are the groups in which the rates are apparently growing the fastest.

And Ann Albright of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says,

The longer you live with the disease, the more likely you are to develop the complications. If you develop diabetes at a young age, the changes are greater of a complication at a younger age.

Its costs are enormous and growing

The costs for treating Type 2 diabetes, including the cost of kidney dialysis and amputation as the disease progresses, are huge and increasing. In 2007 diabetes cost the United States $174 billion. That total was a combination of $116 billion in direct costs of treatment and $58.3 billion in indirect costs of lost productivity.

And the prognosis is often not good. Treatment for end-stage kidney failure, for example, may prolong life only a short time and markedly reduce the quality of that life.

What do you think? There’s been scathing criticism in the U.S. of the so-called “Nanny state” when government uses initiatives to educate parents and children about the importance of eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise. For example, Michelle Obama has been strongly criticized for her Let’s Move! program to get children interested in being active and eating food that’s good for them.

If government does not address this huge public-health issue, who does? Is there anything that any of us—parents, doctors, teachers, and others—can do to help? Any ideas?

photo by yourdon

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Paul LeMay 08/08/2011, 4:46 pm

    Diabetes to many seems of little significance. People have said to me, thats its just about watching your sugar intake. Not a big deal. It is important for family of diabetics to develop an understanding of its seriousness.

    My diabetes is an environmental result. Meaning a chemical called Agent orange used in Vietnam brought on my diabetes. However the cause there is more to it regarding future consequences. Controlling it via diet, insulin etc will prolong your life. More important is the quality.

    Neuropathy, and other immune dysfunctioning, such as fibromylagia, sleep apnea and chronic fatigue plague diabetics.

    I found your blog while browsing and thank you for spreading the word about the dangers of diabetes.

    • Madeleine Kolb 08/08/2011, 6:47 pm

      Paul, There certainly is a lot of ignorance about diabetes, and it sounds as if you’ve encountered your share of it. Any disease which has a profound effect on one’s metabolism–as type 2 diabetes does–is a big deal and needs to be managed very carefully. In my case, the biggest risk factors were gestational diabetes (which is not at all well understood), age, and possibly family history. Whatever the cause, it is crucial to manage it day after day to prevent long-term consequences such as neropathy.

      I appreciate your comment.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/07/2011, 9:24 am

    Excellent points, Tess.
    “As a psychologist I’ve witnessed many overweight clients that also have suffered from some form of sexual abuse. I believe there’s a connection that nobody talks about.”

    I have seen occasional reference to a connection, and it makes sense to that becoming overweight might be a way (consciously or otherwise) to prevent more sexual abuse. Still it’s tragic if people harm themselves by overeating in order to protect themselves.

    The whole question of overeating to the point of ruining one’s health is so complex. Just this morning, I read an article in the Washington Post about how requiring nutritonal info. on restaurant menus is turning out to have very little effect on people’s choices–a discouraging outcome.

    Congratulations on the half-marathon. That’s a huge accomplishment. Kudos to you!

  • Tess The Bold Life 07/07/2011, 8:08 am

    I do think something needs to be done. It’s like we’re all committing suicide slowly. I do think there are underlying issues that cause people to over eat, under eat etc. This isn’t news. So can one ever change eating habits without addressing emotional issues. I doubt it. As a psychologist I’ve witnessed many overweight clients that also have suffered from some form of sexual abuse. I believe there’s a connection that nobody talks about.

    I turned 57 this year and decided to run a half marathon. I did it last Saturday in Washington. No pain, felt great. Amazing what we can do when we take care of oursleves. I come from a family of 10. I’m the only one who isn’t over weight. I also spent years in therapy dealing with my issues. Then became a psychologist to help others . Just sayin…