Health: Diabetes cases on the rise in the U.S.

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:

Along with the rising obesity epidemic in the United States, the medical community is also seeing a sharp rise in diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or where the body does not use insulin effectively.  There are an estimated 20.8 million adults and children in the U.S. affected by diabetes. 

The three major types of diabetes are:

nType 1 diabetes, also called insulin dependent diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.

nType 2 diabetes usually occurs in older people and 90 percent of persons with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

nThe third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes and occurs during pregnancy. Four percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, but this type of diabetes generally goes away after pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can increase a woman’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes at a later date by 40 percent. 

Most adults in the U.S. who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. In the past, this type of diabetes was rarely seen in children. Because many of today’s children and teens are overweight or obese, the number of children and teens with type 2 diabetes is also reaching epidemic proportions. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to treat these young diabetes patients.

The food we eat is converted by the body into sugar or glucose for energy. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that enables the body to move the sugar or glucose into cells to be used as energy. If there is not enough insulin, the sugar remains in the blood stream instead of being moved into the cells. The resulting effect is a high blood glucose level. High blood glucose levels may result in a condition called Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT). 

One-third of the 20.8 million Americans with diabetes are unaware that they even have diabetes. Because the symptoms are not life threatening, diabetes is often undiagnosed at an early stage.

According to American Diabetes Association, the symptoms include: frequent urination, excessive thirst and hunger, unusual weight loss, fatigue, irritability and blurry vision. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can help reduce the likelihood of developing complications of diabetes. The most serious complication of diabetes is heart disease making diabetes the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Genetics, heredity and environmental factors such as lifestyle choices all play a role in the development of diabetes; however the exact cause is still uncertain.

The Franklin County Health Department offers monthly cooking and education classes for people with diabetes or anyone who wants to learn how to eat and cook healthier. Diabetes self-management classes are also offered throughout the year. For more information on the classes please call 564-5559 or visit our web site at www.fchd.org.

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