November is national diabetes month, but that’s not why I am writing this article! There is a wave of illness that is approaching the shore of this country like a tsunami. Diabetes mellitus represents a group of health conditions all associated with an abnormally high blood sugar. The sugar that comes from food in our bloodstream, called glucose, nourishes all of the cells in our bodies. Diabetes prevents the body from transferring sugar from our blood stream into our cells. The cells in a diabetic not treated properly lacks vital energy they need. Blood vessels in the body are damaged by the abnormal metabolism of the sugar trapped in the blood. Diabetes is not a new condition. However, it’s impact on our society is increasing at an alarming rate, jeopardizing both the physical and financial health of our country, along with the world.
Currently there are 300 million people who live in the United States. More than 30 million are considered to have diabetes. That’s concerning, but what is even more concerning is the number of people who are prediabetic is now at 84 million people. Thus, those who are diabetic or prediabetic represent over a third of the adult population and over 50% are over age 65. Ninety percent of those with prediabetes don’t know they have it. 5% – 10% of pre diabetics become diabetic. Within the next two years the number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 43 million. The number with prediabetes is expected to rise to 108 million by 2030.
Diabetes can lead to serious complications that include blindness, loss of kidney function, neuropathy, early death from heart attack or stroke, as well as loss of limbs. These are clearly horrible complications that no one wants. I am writing this article because diabetes represents the leading cause of blindness in working age adults. The complications from this condition are almost completely preventable with good health habits and proper care. I will discuss more about this later in this article.
The economic impact of diabetes on our nation is also a major concern. In 2017, 327 billion dollars were spent on the treatment of diabetes. In general health care, costs for diabetic patients are 2.3 times greater than the general population. The number of diabetics is projected to triple by 2060. These economic numbers are spiraling out of control in a way that our society cannot sustain them.
Here is the good news, these problems are largely preventable with proper care. The rising rates of diabetes are directly related to lifestyle changes that have occurred in our nation and the world over the last 50 years. The increased consumption of processed carbohydrates in the form of refined flour (found in baked goods like bread and pizza), sugar (found in desserts and soft drinks) as well as fruit juice place a burden on your pancreas to produce enough insulin. Insulin is the magic molecule that brings sugar from your blood stream into your body’s cells for use. These foods that are heavily refined also lack other important nutrients that our body needs to stay healthy. The results of this type of eating and the lack of enough exercise is weight gain and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance refers to the fact that even though your body is producing insulin it loses its effectiveness at bringing energy to your cells.
We are going to be taking a stand in our office to combat this epidemic. We are adding testing and education to our office to help identify those at risk of the complications of diabetes. We are forming a team of health care providers to ensure our patients are not falling into trouble with their eyes and their general health from this condition. Over the next few months we will be adding equipment that will detect the complications from diabetes at its earliest stage while working with you and other health care providers to steer you out of troubled waters. We know about 8% of those with prediabetes and about 1/3 of those with diabetes have complications with their eyes. We can only be successful with this effort through education and your acknowledgement that most of us need to make some lifestyle changes that lead to better long term health. Look forward to our future announcements on how our office will be part of the the solution to this health epidemic and economic crisis.