Type 2 diabetes is a national health emergency

Healthy eating is your recipe for managing diabetes.

More than 37 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10), and approximately 90-95% have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it. A study has found that people with type 2 diabetes were at higher risk of developing 57 health conditions than non-diabetics.

Many risk factors for type 2 diabetes include lifestyle decisions that can be reduced or even cut out entirely with time and effort. Men are also at a slightly higher risk of developing diabetes than women. This may be more associated with lifestyle factors, body weight, and where the weight is located (abdominally versus in the hip area) than with innate gender differences.

Significant risk factors include:

  • older age
  • excess weight, particularly around the waist
  • family history
  • certain ethnicities
  • physical inactivity
  • poor diet

Preventive measures can delay the onset of diabetes, and controlling weight and cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels can help prevent complications once diabetes is present.

Proper diet and exercise seem to be the prescription for many common health problems: high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and obesity.

This is not normal

Health experts recommend proper diet and exercise to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, affecting more and more adolescents who are exchanging outdoor activities for computer games and carrots and yogurt for chips, cookies, and soda.

The National Institutes of Health conducted a breakthrough study to show that diet and exercise can delay diabetes. The clinical trial proved that a half-hour of walking or other low-intensity activities daily, combined with a low-fat diet, reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Only 1 in 4 US adults and 1 in 5 high school students get the recommended physical activity levels. Not getting enough physical activity comes with increased health and financial costs. It can contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, and obesity. In addition, low physical activity levels are associated with $117 billion in health care costs every year.

What is the role of healthcare?

The current role in healthcare has been in treatment with drugs that lower A1C, but most physicians don’t have “the talk” about weight with patients, and in fact, there is a trend to tell HCPs not to weigh patients when they come into the office. This is unacceptable.

The people who exercise and eat right are paying for those who don’t. An obese person who spends most of their time sitting and eating pays the same for health insurance as a person who watches their diet and exercises. That borders on ridiculous.

I’m not saying that paying higher insurance premiums, if you’re prediabetic or overweight, will solve this national emergency, but it may help. We need a nationally coordinated campaign to educate the public that diabetes and obesity are out of control. Insurers need to work with companies to develop ways to improve employee wellness, like on-site education on diet and reimbursement for gym memberships.

The new study found that those with type 2 diabetes developed the conditions, on average, five years earlier than people who didn’t have type 2 diabetes. The risks of developing circulatory, genitourinary, neurological, and eye conditions were also “much higher” for people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes under the age of 50 than those diagnosed at “a later age,” the study’s authors said. That’s going to cost us all.