Type 2 Diabetes in America

Considering the scope of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is far too easy to forget that many people are struggling with other health issues, some just as serious as COVID-19. Among the forgotten public health emergencies is Type 2 diabetes which currently afflicts 1 in 8 American adults.

What is even more disturbing is the meteoric rise of Type 2 diabetes in the U.S. in recent years and the upward trajectory of this trend. The CDC estimates that almost 86 million American adults have prediabetes, which is higher than normal levels of blood sugar. Without a dramatic change in lifestyle including weight loss and regular physical exercise, many of those suffering from prediabetes will acquire full-blown Type 2 diabetes within 5 years.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes comes in two forms: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body destroys its own pancreatic beta cells, the only cells that can produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, however, is an acquired condition in which cells stop responding to the presence of insulin. This forces the pancreas to produce more insulin, but eventually the high levels of sugar in the blood damage various organs and systems.

The tragedy is that almost 1 in 4 people with diabetes do not realize that they have this health condition. Unmanaged Type 2 diabetes can lead to many health problems including

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Blindness
  • Amputation of toes, feet or legs
  • Nerve pain
  • Early death
  • Increased risk of COVID-19

If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you can slow the progression of the disease by making some simple lifestyle changes. You should adopt a more active lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet that is low in carbohydrates.

Your physician may also recommend various medications including insulin to help keep your blood sugar low. Your blood pressure and cholesterol will also need to be monitored closely. The doctor may request that you use a blood sugar meter regularly to make sure you remain in a healthy range.

An Epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes

It is estimated that almost 34 million Americans have diabetes, and almost 90 percent of these involve Type 2 diabetes. There has been a rapid rise in the number of diabetics in the U.S. in recent years, and if this trend continues, then the number of Americans with diabetes could balloon to 1 in 3 by 2050.

The primary reason for this uptick in Type 2 diabetes cases is the growing number of obese Americans. In 2016, almost 75 percent of U.S. men and 69 percent of U.S. women qualified as overweight. After steadily climbing for years, it is estimated that almost half of all American teenagers will be overweight by 2030.

What is truly alarming is the jump in Type 2 diabetes diagnoses among young people. One study analyzed 4.9 million youths from 2002 to 2012 and found an increase of 4.8 percent of Type 2 diabetes cases among youths aged 10 to 19.

How to Prevent Diabetes

If you have elevated levels of sugar in your blood but do not yet qualify as diabetic, there is still hope. About 70 percent of prediabetics will transition to full-blown diabetes, but you can take steps to lower your odds.

  • Cut out sugar—obviously, you want to lower the amount of sugar in your blood, so you should eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. You should understand that refined carbohydrates like white bread and rice are the same as sugar to your body. You can eliminate sugar and cut the amount of carbohydrates with some simple dietary changes.
  • Be more active—if you are like most Americans, you spend far too much time sitting and not nearly enough at the gym. There are many health benefits to regular exercise, but perhaps the most relevant is that it makes your cells more sensitive to insulin, i.e., your body will take more sugar out of your blood.
  • Lose weight—most diabetics have at least some excess fat. That extra fat in your body promotes inflammation and insulin resistance, which in turn raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • Stop smoking—you probably already know that smoking is bad for you, but you may not realize that this habit drastically raises your risk of developing diabetes. One study found that the risk goes up 44 percent in average smokers and 61 percent among those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day.
  • Avoid sitting—it is difficult to remain active when many of us sit through our workdays, in front of a monitor or with a phone in our hands, but making it a point to be active can make a huge difference in whether you develop diabetes or not. Studies indicate that people who spend most of their day without moving much are 91 percent more likely to become diabetic.
  • Eat lots of fiber—research shows that eating foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts can help lower blood sugar and insulin levels. Fiber combines with water in the digestive system and forms a gel that slows food absorption. This smooths out the blood sugar spike that often follows a meal.
  • Vitamin D—Most people don’t realize that vitamin D plays an important role developing Type 2 diabetes. People with insufficient amounts of vitamin D have a much higher susceptibility for diabetes.
  • Drink coffee or tea—if you need a flavored drink, choose coffee or tea instead of soda. Some studies have suggested that drinking coffee daily may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 54 percent. Both coffee and tea have antioxidants that may offer some protection against diabetes. If you must sweeten your beverage, choose an artificial sweetener rather than sugar or honey.
  • Moderate portions—it is easy to think that eating any quantity of healthier foods is good for you, but there can be too much of a good thing. Monitor how much you consume and don’t eat to full satiation.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA, and you should not post any of your private health information.