November is American Diabetes Month, when groups such as the American Diabetes Association aim to educate the public about a disease that has become a national crisis. Diabetes mellitus, most often simply referred to as diabetes, has never been more prevalent than it is today. As of 2007 (when the most recent data was collected) 10.7 percent of the United States population over the age of 20 had diabetes.
The amount of younger people with diabetes has risen significantly as well. The New York Times reports that from 1980 to 2007 diabetes in people below the age of 44 has tripled. Type 2 diabetes, a preventable form of the disease, accounts for about 95 percent of diabetes cases in the United States.
Diabetes is now ranked seventh in leading causes of death in the United States. The Diabetes Federation reports that as of October 2009 more than 285 million people suffer from diabetes worldwide. Within 20 years, the number of people with diabetes will reach 435 million. As the prevalence of diabetes continues to grow, prevention and treatment is becoming more essential in reducing the harm caused by the disease.
Learn about the different types of diabetes.
Diabetes and Air Pollution
A recent epidemiological study conducted by Children’s Hospital Boston showed a strong link between air pollution and diabetes. The New York Times reported that the study confirmed previous tests linking air pollution to an increased risk for insulin resistance (which, in turn, can lead to diabetes). According to the Times, for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter rise in particles created by exhaust, smoke, and haze there was a one percent increase in diabetes rates. This long-term study adjusted for diabetes risk factors such as obesity and ethnicity. Even in countries with relatively low pollution levels there was a relationship between pollution and diabetes. Scientists still acknowledge that factors such as obesity and lack of exercise are overwhelmingly responsible for diabetes, but that other factors must be taken into account as well.
In September 2010, drug regulators in the United States and Europe announced that the drug Avandia would no longer be made available to treat diabetes. The New York Times reports that the drug has been completly taken off the market in Europe and that in the United States the drug will only be prescribed in extremely rare cases and patients will be made fully aware of the numerous risks associated with the drug. The Times reports that more than 47,000 people taking Avandia have suffered from heart attack, heart failure, or stroke since 1999—the year that the drug was approved. The drug’s approval represents one of the largest failures of the drug regulatory process in recent history.
Diabetes and Alzheimer’s
While it has been shown that diabetes contributes to memory loss, it was previously unclear how diabetes interacted with Alzheimer’s specifically. Research published in the October 27th issue of Neurology seems to show that the memory of a patient with both diabetes and Alzheimer’s tends to deteriorate more slowly than the memory of patient with Alzheimer’s alone.
The study did add that these findings may have been due to the fact that common side effects of diabetes are cardiovascular complications, and, as a result, diabetics are often prescribed medications that lower blood pressure. These same mediations have also been shown to combat Alzheimer’s in some cases. This explanation, however, has not been thoroughly researched and is speculative.
One year ago the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) launched a new set of guidelines aimed at preventing diabetes across the globe. Part of the new guidelines aim to help prevent and treat gestational diabetes. The IDF advocates more stringent monitoring of blood glucose levels during pregnancy, as gestational diabetes rates have risen significantly in recent years. The new IDF guidelines also advocate specific tailoring of type 2 diabetes care when monitoring blood levels in order to account for the wide array of social, income, and geographical differences among type 2 diabetes patients.
Many diabetics across the world go undiagnosed, reports ScienceDaily. For instance, Professor Davies, Honorary Consultant Physician in Diabetes at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, says there are approximately 2.6 million people with diabetes in England, yet 500,000 are undiagnosed and untreated. Untreated diabetics can develop more serious and costly diseases quickly; in the United States the number of untreated is upwards of 6.8 million people, which results in $218 billion in annual medical costs.
Often, sufferers of type 2 diabetes will not express symptoms until their health deteriorates significantly. In other cases, they will fail to recognize symptoms as relating to diabetes. Getting the word out about diabetes is key. An early diagnosis can make all the difference, because prediabetes can be treated before it becomes diabetes.
In America alone, 57 million people have prediabetes, which can often be treated by exercise and a simple change in diet.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults from the ages of 20 to 74 and causes 12,000 to 24,000 cases of blindness in the United States each year. Diabetes is also the leading cause of kidney disease, with 44 percent of diagnosed kidney disease cases in 2005 resulting from diabetes complications. Diabetes also causes high blood pressure, with 75 percent of diabetics suffering from high blood pressure and cardiovascular complications.
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