More than 6 million people in the United States don’t know they have a life-threatening disease.
Up 14% since 2002, 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in 2005 in victims 20 or older. This disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
According to the latest report by the Center for Disease Control, 21 million people in the United States have diabetes.
“The disease is so prevalent because of not eating right, not exercising and living a sedentary lifestyle,” said Gwen Hoffman, diabetes instructor at Madison Memorial Hospital. “Our lifestyle is so fast paced that we don’t do aerobic exercise, the most effective way to prevent diabetes.”
Most people suffer from type 2 diabetes. In type 2 the pancreas wears out and does not produce insulin, a necessary hormone to control blood sugar levels.
“But what people don’t know is that they have a lot of control over diabetes,” Hoffman said. “You can control it through exercise and eating right.”
Doctors suggest exercising 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. Hoffmann said students should not only look at carbohydrates, they should examine the type of carbs they eat. The USDA recommends eating 3-5 servings of fruits/vegetables and 2-3 servings of dairy. “With Thanksgiving coming up, we should really examine what we eat,” Hoffman said.
The CDC also said that diabetes contributed to 250,000 deaths in 2002, based on their analysis of death certificates.
“When blood sugar rises and stays high for an extended period, the extra sugar permeates everything and causes tissue damage,” Hoffmann said. “Deaths come because over time, the sugar destroys tissues mainly in the circulatory system and kidneys.”
According to the CDC, the risk for death among diabetics is about twice that of people without diabetes of similar age.
Pre-diabetes has also become a major concern. The CDC reported that 41 million people have pre-diabetes.
Insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition, “has no symptoms but it signifies an advanced metabolic problem, which will in most cases progress to Type 2 diabetes over time,” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Ludwig said systematic societal changes are needed, including more healthful school lunches.
“It’s just not enough to tell people to exercise and eat right,” Ludwig said.
Hoffmann said medications help treat the disease. “Insulin is a life necessity. Whether you take pills or injections, what matters is keeping blood sugar levels within a normal range.”

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