Breaking Down the Facts on Diabetes
Robert Watine, MD, CSCS
Barefoot Bay Internal Medicine
What are the stats on diabetes?
The American Diabetes Association reports that 88 million American adults (18 and older) are pre-diabetic, which is nearly 33 percent of the adult population. Also, in 2018, 34.2 million Americans (10.5 percent of the population) has diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. The CDC also reported a nearly 30% increase in Type 1 diabetes diagnoses in the U.S. Long-term complications are similar for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, which include heart disease and damage to nerves, kidneys, eyes and feet, along with numerous other problems.
What do you think is the reason for the increase in diabetes diagnoses?
Our society has adopted a sedentary lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is typically associated with those who are obese or morbidly obese. In the 1990s, the term, “juvenile diabetes” became an antiquated term for Type 1 diabetes. And because of the increase in childhood obesity, there has become an increase in the number of diagnoses of Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young (which is Type 2 diabetes in children).
What are the signs?
There are the three “Ps” of diabetes: Polyuria (having to urinate frequently); Polydipsia (increased thirst); and Polyphagia (increased appetite). I have patients who were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before the age of 18, and now are middle aged and older who are seeking medical care. Type 1 diabetes never goes away and thus these folks need ongoing care. Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are quick in onset once the disease occurs. In contrast to this, Type 2 diabetes are typically without symptoms. The diagnosis is typically suggested or made on routine blood work. Confirmatory tests are sometimes required to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the most common misconception?
So many diabetics think, “I can take my pill and eat what I want,” or “I can just take a little more insulin or another pill.” Diabetes doesn’t work that way. Blood-sugar levels are in a constant dynamic flux. Stress hormones come into play, such as glucagon, epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. Every time a diabetic put something into their mouth, they must consider, “how will this affect my blood sugar?”.
What can people do?
I hear from so many patients that between work and family, they just don’t have the time to take care of themselves. But it is so easy to carve out a half hour of down time to put the phone down, stop playing video games or watching TV, and get out and exercise.
It is important to talk to your doctor about what’s going on with your health. Take your dog for a walk; walk with your spouse, partner or significant other. Participate in an activity for 20 minutes three times a week. The activity should be determined with your doctor if you are over the age of 40 and if you’ve been leading a sedentary lifestyle and gaining weight. Always consult with your doctor to be cleared before embarking on an exercise program. Exercise places stress on your body when it’s not used to it and could result in serious injury. I encourage exercise to be part of your lifestyle, but it must be done intelligently and under supervision by your physician.