Diabetes: Don’t Become a Statistic!

November 11, 2010

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diabetesA report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a grim prediction for America’s future. It says that by the year 2050, 1 in 3 adults will have type 2 diabetes — two to three times more than today’s already increasing rates.

I find the news truly alarming, if not surprising, considering the nation’s obesity rates and lifestyle habits, and I hope that we will collectively take action to prevent this prediction from coming to pass.

Type 2 diabetes, sometimes called adult-onset diabetes, is a largely preventable disease. More often than not, its onset is triggered by excess body weight, lack of exercise, and a diet filled with empty calorie, highly processed foods. Unfortunately, there three factors describe the typical American experience far too often.

Type 2 diabetes is a horrible condition to live with, and it is linked to much more than imbalanced blood sugar levels. People with diabetes are at a 10 times greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke, as well as much more likely to suffer from diabetes-related complications like blindness, kidney failure, a weakened immune system, wound infections, and otherwise preventable limb amputations.

The illness takes a horrible toll on individuals and society as a whole in increased illness, medical costs, days off work, and more. Luckily, it’s not too late to change the direction our nation’s health is heading, but it will take effort on all levels to make that happen: government, employers, school, and individuals.

For example, government could help by encouraging existing and developing cities to be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, so physical activity could easily become part of someone’s day rather than another thing to schedule in. Likewise, increased taxes on unhealthy foods might help encourage people to make healthier choices in much the same way as additional taxes on tobacco products have prompted many smokers to finally quit.

Employers could help by providing on-site gyms or gym memberships to employees. Changing and shower facilities on site would also help make biking, walking, or jogging to work more possible. Employee programs that reward smart lifestyle choices could also help.

Schools could help by making sure cafeterias and vending machines offer students nutritious, high-quality food instead of junk food. Physical education programs could be expanded, rather than cut. Parents could get involved to make sure their child’s school is promoting healthy lifestyle choices.

And finally, individuals could help by taking charge of their health and lifestyle to either prevent diabetes from developing or to do all they can to manage it and keep it in check if it does. At The Center for Medical Weight Loss, we guide our patients with diabetes and those on their way to developing it toward this path every step of the way.

Once someone has diabetes, it can’t be reversed but by losing weight, sticking within the recommended calorie intake, and adding physical activity to his or her daily routine, it can be managed with diet and lifestyle rather than with medications. In fact, 8 out of 10 people with type 2 diabetes could manage their condition with lifestyle changes and weight loss, saving money on medications and avoiding possible side effects as well.

In short, this report is a call to action that our culture needs to take very seriously. How about you? Do you or someone you love have diabetes? One in four people with diabetes don’t even know it, leaving them at serious risk for a dangerous progression of damage. I challenge you to take charge of your future health today, before it’s too late. You don’t have to become a statistic.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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