WHAT IS DIABETES?
Obesity is on the rise all over the globe — and the United States is leading this dismaying trend. As the percentage of Americans with obesity increases, so has the rate of Type II diabetes. This is a cause for concern: diabetes causes numerous health complications, including potentially lethal problems such as heart disease and kidney failure, and the more widespread diabetes becomes, the greater the social and economic toll to our society and the more individuals who suffer as a result.
Between 1990 and 2005, the incidence of diabetes in America has doubled. Today, 25.8 million people in the United States — almost one in 10 Americans — have diabetes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project that by 2050 a third of Americans could have diabetes. What’s more, although this disease used to occur primarily in adults, the incidence of Type II diabetes in children has risen dramatically over the last decade. Health professionals attribute this largely to the rise in childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is a particularly vexing problem: bad eating and exercise habits learned early are difficult to break later in life, and this can lead to severe health complications. Obese children are also more likely to be bullied and suffer from negative self-image and depression than their non-obese peers.
TYPE I VS. TYPE II DIABETES
There are two main types of diabetes: Type I and Type II.
- Susceptibility to Type I diabetes is hereditary
- People with this condition lack the ability to make insulin, the chemical in your body that breaks down blood sugar
- In Type II diabetes, the pancreas stops producing enough insulin or the cells become resistant to insulin. The risk of developing Type II diabetes also involves genetics, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can reduce or increase this risk significantly. Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other conditions can aggravate or even lead to Type II diabetes
- According to some estimates, Type II diabetes accounts for 90 percent of diabetes cases in the United States. In this article, we are talking principally about Type II diabetes
EFFECTS OF DIABETES
Diabetes can cause many harmful health problems. These complications can range from the bothersome to the life-threatening. If left untreated, diabetes can cause complications including:
- Damage to the heart and blood vessels, making heart attack and stroke more likely. These problems are much more likely in diabetes patients than in the general population. This is because too much blood sugar can cause deposits on the walls of blood vessels, and as blood flow is squeezed off, blockages can form and arteries can harden
- Damage to the eyes, which can lead to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy, as it is known, often has no early warnings. It happens when the sensitive blood vessels in the retina react badly to excess blood glucose, causing the breakdown of the vessel walls
- Damage to the nerves, which can cause a variety of problems; foot damage because of nerve damage or poor blood flow. In extreme cases, this can lead to amputation. Sixty to 70 percent of diabetes patients have some nerve problems. Scientists are still studying just how diabetic nerve damage is caused
- Damage to the kidneys, which can make dialysis or kidney transplant necessary, and can also be fatal. This comes about when high glucose makes the kidneys work too hard and break down, causing them to lose the ability to filter the blood — a necessary function
- Osteoporosis, or reduced bone density. Scientists don’t know just why, but those with Type I diabetes have a higher risk of osteoporosis. All diabetes patients appear to have a higher risk of bone breaks, osteoporosis or no
- Skin and mouth conditions. High blood sugar and diabetes may cause, among others, a rare skin condition where the skin on the upper back thickens; a skin disorder called vitiligo, where the body’s pigment formation is disrupted; rashes and blisters; and various other disorders linked to the low blood supply that can be caused by diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Diabetes damages blood vessels, including blood vessels in the brain. This can help cause vascular dementia, which can work in tandem with Alzheimer’s disease, each condition making the other’s effects worse. Scientists hope to learn more about the link between dementia and Alzheimer’s