Lack of Knowledge About Diabetes is a Concern
< Nov. 04, 2009 > -- Diabetes is a frequently-diagnosed disease, yet many Americans lack basic knowledge about the potentially life-threatening condition, according to a new survey from the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
"There's a real lack of awareness of the seriousness of the disease," says Sue McLaughlin, BS, RD, CDE, CPT, president of Health Care and Education for the diabetes association.
To combat that, the organization has launched a new campaign called Stop Diabetes to encourage people with diabetes to share their stories. The effort is intended to increase awareness of the disease, fight the social stigma sometimes associated with it, and get more people involved in the fight against diabetes.
Many Unaware of Gravity of Diabetes Diagnosis
Although diabetes is responsible for more deaths each year in the US than breast cancer and AIDS combined, only 42 percent of those surveyed knew that diabetes could be so deadly.
Those who have the disease often say the lack of awareness can feel like a lack of support.
"Living with diabetes every day is a struggle, and people don't always understand what you go through every day," says Malika Bey of Pittsburgh. Bey was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during two pregnancies, and then with type 2 diabetes after her last pregnancy.
"It would help if family members were more supportive," she says. "You know, I can't eat everything I want to eat, and at a party, nobody thinks about something simple, like getting diet drinks."
Diet Is Not Always the Issue
McLaughlin says a common myth is that sugar and overeating cause diabetes. But, that is not true for either type of diabetes. Diet is not a factor at all in type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks the islet cells in the pancreas, which destroys the body's ability to produce insulin. And, though type 2 diabetes is more common in people who are overweight, genetics and other unknown factors - not just diet - can be contributors. Even some thin people have type 2 diabetes.
Still, only one-third of the people surveyed knew that too much sugar did not cause diabetes. And more than half of the respondents wrongly believed that anyone who was overweight or obese would eventually develop type 2 diabetes.
But experts say the opposite belief - that you will not get diabetes even though you are overweight - can be a problem, too.
Frank Timmons, from Rockland, Mass., tipped the scales at 347 pounds. When he went to the doctor in November 2008, his blood sugar level was 350 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). A normal random blood sugar reading should be less than 140 mg/dL.
"I was kind of a train wreck," Timmons admits in a statement released by the ADA. But, he used his diagnosis to kick-start a new life. Just a year later, Timmons has lost 140 pounds and his blood sugar levels are back in the normal range. He says the biggest factor in his success is exercise: He walks at a brisk pace for 45 minutes each day.
"You have to make up your mind to be well," Timmons says. "It is hard to do. Once you dedicate yourself to it, you will be amazed at your success."
More From the Survey
The ADA survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, included 2,081 men and women from across the US. The average age of the survey respondents was 46, and 285 of them had been diagnosed with diabetes.
The survey also found that:
"This is a serious disease, and something that causes a lot of deaths," McLaughlin says. "We hope the Stop Diabetes campaign will raise awareness about how important it is to be educated about diabetes and to get screened if you're at high risk."
Those in the high-risk category include people who are older than 45, are of a race other than white, or have a family history of the disease. Being physically inactive or overweight are also risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, increased urination, blurred vision, tingling in the hands and feet, fatigue, dry skin and, possibly, increased hunger, McLaughlin adds.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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November is American Diabetes Month
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in the next 24 hours, diabetes will claim the lives of 200 people. That is more than 5,887 friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family members every week.
Here are more facts about diabetes:
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by a failure to secrete enough insulin, or, in some cases, the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Because insulin is needed by the body to convert glucose into energy, these failures result in abnormally high levels of glucose accumulating in the blood. Diabetes may be a result of other conditions such as genetic syndromes, chemicals, drugs, malnutrition, infections, viruses, or other illnesses.
The three main types of diabetes - type 1, type 2, and gestational - are all defined as metabolic disorders that affect the way the body metabolizes, or uses, digested food to make glucose, the main source of fuel for the body.
Type 2 diabetes is commonly preceded by prediabetes. In prediabetes, blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be defined as diabetes. However, many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years, states the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Prediabetes also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, people with prediabetes can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes affects 57 million people in the US, according to the ADA.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans, and the fifth leading cause of death from disease. Although it is believed that diabetes is under-reported as a condition leading to or causing death, each year, more than 200,000 deaths are reported as being caused by diabetes or its complications. Complications of diabetes include eye problems and blindness, heart disease, stroke, neurological problems, amputation, and impotence.
Because diabetes (with the exception of gestational diabetes) is a chronic, incurable disease that affects nearly every part of the body, contributes to other serious diseases, and can be life threatening, it must be managed under the care of a physician throughout a person's life.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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