Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, about 95% of whom have type 2 diabetes. It develops when the body does not produce enough insulin and/or the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly. As a result, blood sugar levels shoot up. Another 41 million plus have pre-diabetes and most are unaware of their condition.
The number of adults with diabetes has doubled world-wide over the last three decades to nearly 350 million and increased nearly threefold in the U.S., a sign that the epidemic will impose an ever-greater cost burden on health systems. The latest calculation, based on a study published in the British journal Lancet, found that the number of adult diabetics jumped to 347 million from 153 million in 1980.
Pre-diabetes is diagnosed when fasting blood sugar is elevated but not high enough to be considered diabetic. A person is considered pre-diabetic if his or her blood level is between 100 and 125 mg/dl after an overnight fast. Sometimes providers refer to this as borderline diabetes. By any name, the diagnosis should serve as a loud warning signal. Studies have shown that each year about 10 percent of people with pre-diabetes will develop diabetes.
“Diabetes is a long-lasting and disabling condition, and it’s going to be the largest cost for many health systems,” said Majid Ezzati, a professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London and a lead author of the study. Many public-health experts consider the rise in diabetes to be more worrying than the rise in high blood pressure rates and cholesterol levels.
Why Should We Be Concerned About Pre-diabetes or Diabetes (Or Being Overweight)? There are effective drugs for high blood pressure and cholesterol, but it’s harder to prevent or treat diabetes. The condition is more debilitating for many patients: It occurs when the cells of the body cannot take up sugar in the form of glucose, and can lead to kidney failure, blindness or amputation of limbs. The increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer has been well documented.
According to the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Surgeon General, most of “the top ten causes of death due to disease are attributable to health risks associated with excess body fat.” The National Institutes of Health states it flatly: “Obesity is a leading cause of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer.”
In the U.S., the total cost of diagnosed diabetes was estimated at $174 billion in 2007, according to the American Diabetes Association. Today it exceeds $200 billion each year.
Diabetes and Pregnancy Woman who gains roughly 12 to 17 pounds after giving birth more than doubles her odds of diabetes during the second pregnancy. Diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy is known as gestational diabetes.
Findings underscore how important it is for women to lose their baby weight. Women who gain weight after giving birth for the first time dramatically increase their risk of developing pregnancy-related diabetes during their second pregnancy.
Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease and the Mayo Clinic Diabetes may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. Reduce this risk by controlling your blood sugar. Diet and exercise can help.
Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are connected in ways that still aren’t completely understood. While not all research confirms the connection, many studies indicate that people with diabetes — especially type 2 diabetes — are at higher risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking steps to prevent or control diabetes may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Understanding the Brain Connection Because diabetes damages blood vessels, it has long been recognized as a risk factor for vascular dementia — a type of cognitive decline caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain. Many people with cognitive decline have brain changes that are hallmarks of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Some researchers think that each condition helps fuel the damage caused by the other.
Ongoing research focuses on confirming the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes and understanding why it exists. The link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s may be especially strong as a result of the complex ways that type 2 diabetes affects the ability of the brain and other body tissues to use sugar (glucose) and respond to insulin.
Diabetes may also increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a transition stage between the cognitive changes of normal aging and the more serious problems caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.