November is known as American Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a serious epidemic facing not only our nation but the world. It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney disease and amputations and increases risk of heart attack and stroke. Each year the American Diabetes Association communicates the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of diabetes prevention and control. Nearly 26 million children and adults are afflicted with the disease in the U.S. and an additional 79 million are at risk for type 2 diabetes. These numbers indicate that diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. Currently the Centers for Disease Control estimate that one in nine adults has diabetes. Recent estimates project that if this trend continues that by the year 2,050 as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes unless we take steps to stop it.
People with type 2 diabetes aren’t always fat, sedentary and don’t always eat a lot of junk food and drink a lot of soda. Previously, people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were older, often receiving the diagnosis in middle age or beyond. Incidence of type 2 cases continues to skyrocket, but of concern is the increase in diagnosis in younger people. A condition that used to develop over half a lifetime now is becoming a young person’s problem. The National Institutes of Health reports that about 15 percent of people with type 2 diabetes aren’t even overweight.
Diabetes strikes a person in the United States every 17 seconds. Often diabetes goes undiagnosed because the symptoms seem harmless or are easily blamed on other conditions.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
• Frequent urination
• Unusual thirst
• Extreme hunger
• Unusual weight loss
• Extreme fatigue and irritability
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
• Any of the symptoms of type 1
• Frequent infections
• Blurred vision
• Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
• Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
• Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
Quite often people with type 2 diabetes do not have any symptoms. Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with making some behavior changes. Moderate physical activity such as brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week and a 7 percent reduction in body weight (about 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Exercise and eating healthfully can keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, delaying or preventing complications of diabetes.
A condition called TOFI — thin outside, fat inside, undetectable from a person’s appearance is causing average-weight bodies to hide a dark secret. TOFI happens when fat that would normally build up under the skin instead attaches to your abdominal organs. This visceral fat causes inflammatory substances to affect your liver and pancreas and lower your insulin sensitivity, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes. With TOFI one might look slim, but the insides are behaving as if the person is obese. The key to lowering blood sugar can be found with even moderate exercise. Breaking a sweat causes muscles to use up glucose at many times the normal rate.
There are new diabetes treatments on the horizon. Recent researches at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston found that an enzyme in the mitochondria of cells is decreased in the skeletal muscles of those with type 2 diabetes. The enzyme Sirt3, which is decreased by at least one-half in those with diabetes, is believed to contribute to the development of insulin resistance. Many studies have shown that the mitochondria don’t work well in people with diabetes. It is known that the hallmarks of early diabetes is insulin resistance in muscles, but up until now it wasn’t know what caused it. It is believed that a drug to boost Sirt3 levels could be useful for treating pre-diabetes or those newly diagnosed with the disease.
There is much emphasis on catching diabetes early and treating it early. If you suspect you or someone you know has diabetes the best support is getting treatment right away. There is strong evidence that poorly controlled diabetes can have serious complications later on in life — don’t delay, seek treatment today.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.