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Diabetes Epidemic Hits the United States

Final Call, News Report, Nisa Islam Muhammad Posted: Jul 14, 2008

(FinalCall.com) - Diabetes, called by many the disease of excess, now affects nearly 24 million people in the United States, an increase of more than 3 million in approximately two years, according to new 2007 prevalence data estimates released June 25, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This means that nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes.

"There's no simple answer as to why we�re seeing this increase. So many more people are obese and overweight. Fat is the direct cause of diabetes. Couple that with improper eating, lack of exercise and the type of food people eat," explained Dr. Jewel Crawford, of the Morehouse School of Medicine.

In addition to the 24 million with diabetes, another 57 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes, a condition that puts people at increased risk for diabetes. Among people with diabetes, those who do not know they have the disease decreased from 30 percent to 25 percent over a two-year period.

"These new estimates have both good news and bad news," said Dr. Ann Albright, director of the CDC Division of Diabetes Translation. "It is concerning to know that we have more people developing diabetes, and these data are a reminder of the importance of increasing awareness of this condition, especially among people who are at high risk.

"On the other hand, it is good to see that more people are aware that they have diabetes. That is an indication that our efforts to increase awareness are working, and more importantly, that more people are better prepared to manage this disease and its complications."

At Temple University�s School of Podiatric Medicine podiatrists have seen a spike in recently diagnosed diabetic patients who have been referred by their primary care physician as part of a heightened awareness of the disease.

"Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, and health care providers are becoming more proactive in their approach to care," said Temple podiatrist Kathya Zinszer, who specializes in diabetic wound care.

"In years past, patients would come to their doctor with chronic foot wounds, and would be so far gone that the only option would be to amputate. Now, that's not the case, thanks to the push for preventative care."

Diabetes is a disease associated with high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production that causes sugar to build up in the body. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the country and can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

Among adults, diabetes increased in both men and women and in all age groups, but still disproportionately affects the elderly. Almost 25 percent of the population 60 years and older had diabetes in 2007.

And, as in previous years, disparities exist among Caucasians, Native Americans, Blacks and Latinos. After adjusting for population age differences between the groups, the rate of diagnosed diabetes was highest among Native Americans and Alaska Natives (16.5 percent).

This was followed by Blacks (11.8 percent) and Latinos (10.4 percent), which includes rates for Puerto Ricans (12.6 percent), Mexican Americans (11.9 percent), and Cubans (8.2 percent).

By comparison, the rate for Asian Americans was 7.5 percent with Whites at 6.6 percent.

Temple's approach to preventative care is two fold: At the Foot and Ankle Institute, newly diagnosed diabetics undergo a number of baseline tests including shoe fittings and gait analysis, to determine and correct any problem areas before they develop into chronic ulcers or wounds.

In addition, Dr. Zinszer and her colleagues stress the need for patients to make foot care a part of their everyday lives. She suggests wearing good, supportive slippers in the house, never going barefoot outdoors and checking inside the shoes to make sure there are no foreign objects that could rub or cut the foot.

"I tell all my patients to get in the habit of checking their shoes now, because while they may have good feeling in their feet today, in 10 years, they might not," said Dr. Zinszer.

"Our goal is to do everything we can to salvage limbs and help our diabetic patients maintain a good quality of life," she said.

Dr. Crawford explains that there are also environment causes of the disease as well.

"Animals are fed steroids to make them bigger. The steroids cause weight gain in the animals, which in turn causes weight gain in the people who eat them. Milk also has bovine growth hormone. These additives are stored in the fat tissue," she told The Final Call.

"There�s also too much sugar consumed. From Big Gulps to 32 ounce sodas. The average can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar. What if a person has four or five of these a day? That's 40-50 teaspoons of sugar."

She added, "This is a lifestyle disease which causes the pancreas to burn out. The pancreas releases insulin. There's also a lack of exercise. People take in all of these calories but don�t burn them off."

The good news according to Dr. Crawford is that early detection of Type II Diabetes can be reversed.

"People have to eat more fruit and vegetables. They have to exercise if only to go walking. The sedentary lifestyle is killing us. Weight loss, exercise and a change of diet can help dramatically."

Related Articles:

Health Care Workforce Unprepared for Aging Baby-boomers

Kidney Disease Crosses Racial Divides

Grants Target Asian Health Issues


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