Diabetes can strike anyone, from any walk of life.
And it does – in numbers that are dramatically increasing. In the last decade, the cases of people living with diabetes jumped almost 50 percent – to more than 29 million Americans.
Worldwide, it afflicts more than 380 million people. And the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, that number of people living with diabetes will more than double.
Today, diabetes takes more lives than AIDS and breast cancer combined — claiming the life of 1 American every 3 minutes. It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke.
Living with diabetes places an enormous emotional, physical and financial burden on the entire family. Annually, diabetes costs the American public more than $245 billion.
Just what is diabetes?
To answer that, you first need to understand the role of insulin in your body.
When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin.
Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter — and allow you to use the glucose for energy.
But with diabetes, this system does not work.
Several major things can go wrong – causing the onset of diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease, but there are also other kinds, such as gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, as well as other forms.
Fast facts on diabetes
Here are some key points about diabetes. More detail and supporting information is on this page.
- Diabetes is a long-term condition that causes high blood sugar levels.
- In 2013 it was estimated that over 382 million people throughout the world had diabetes (Williams textbook of Endocrinology).
- Type 1 Diabetes – the body does not produce insulin. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1.
- Type 2 Diabetes – the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function. Approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are of this type.
- Gestational Diabetes – this type affects females during pregnancy.
- The most common diabetes symptoms include frequent urination, intense thirst and hunger, weight gain, unusual weight loss, fatigue, cuts and bruises that do not heal, male sexual dysfunction, numbness and tingling in hands and feet.
- If you have Type 1 and follow a healthy eating plan, do adequate exercise, and take insulin, you can lead a normal life.
- Type 2 patients need to eat healthily, be physically active, and test their blood glucose. They may also need to take oral medication, and/or insulin to control blood glucose levels.
- As the risk of cardiovascular disease is much higher for a diabetic, it is crucial that blood pressure and cholesterol levels are monitored regularly.
- As smoking might have a serious effect on cardiovascular health, diabetics should stop smoking.
- Hypoglycemia – low blood glucose – can have a bad effect on the patient. Hyperglycemia – when blood glucose is too high – can also have a bad effect on the patient.