In 1991, in response to the troubling rise of diabetes across the globe, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) designated November 14 as World Diabetes Day. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/61/225, also designating November 14 as World Diabetes Day. Because diabetes awareness is so important, the entire month of November soon became designated as National Diabetes Month.
As the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, everyone should learn as much as possible about this silent killer, so here are a few statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Diabetes Association:
- 1 out of 10 people have diabetes
- 1 out of 4 people don’t realize they have diabetes
- 1 out of 3 people has prediabetes
- 9 out of 10 people don’t realize they have prediabetes
- 85.2% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese
- The prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. increased by 382% from 1988 to 2014
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. When one’s body is working properly, much of the food we eat is turned into blood glucose. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps the glucose from food get into cells where it’s used as energy.
When the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or the insulin is not being used efficiently, the glucose stays in the blood and never gets to the cells. The buildup of sugar in the blood can cause health issues including cardiovascular risk.
There are two types of diabetes that are the most common:
- Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age and cannot be prevented. It occurs when the body does not make enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes is more often found in children than adults, with nearly 18,000 kids diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year, while only 5% of adult diagnoses are type 1.
- Type 2 diabetes is when the body produces insulin but is unable to use it properly. In adults, 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes is type 2.
Science has been unable to prevent type 1 diabetes because it is primarily caused by an inherited genetic variant, and not caused by external sources or lifestyle choices. Type 1 diabetes requires daily injections of insulin.
Type 2 diabetes, however, is manageable. Those most at risk are those that are overweight, have a family history of diabetes, are physically inactive, and are over 45 years old.
To show how dangerous diabetes is, the CDC has provided the following list of complications:
- People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people without diabetes—and at an earlier age.
- In the United States, diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease, lower-limb amputations, and adult-onset blindness.
- Smokers are 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.
- People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to develop serious related health problems, including heart and kidney disease.
- In about 2 out of 3 Native Americans/Alaska Natives with kidney failure, diabetes is the cause.
The number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese. To delay or prevent type 2 diabetes, doctors advise to losing weight, eating healthy, and increasing physical activity, which are the same instructions for those who have the disease and are trying to manage it. Doctors agree that the most important factor in prevention and management is maintaining the proper weight.
To see for yourself the many ways that sugar is disguised on food labels, find food items in your home that were purchased from a grocery store—cold cereal, flavored yogurt, applesauce, granola bars—and see if any of these ingredients are found on the label: sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, rice syrup, dextrin, diastatic malt, honey, agave nectar, lactose, or maltodextrin. Those are just a few of the aliases companies use to describe sugar.
Of all foods and beverages, sugar-laden drinks like soda, fruit juice, sweet tea, and energy drinks probably add more sugar to our diets than anything else we consume. According to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a typical 20-ounce soda contains 15-18 teaspoons of sugar and more than 240 calories. The American Heart Association recommends a daily added sugar limit of no more than 9 teaspoons/36 grams/150 calories for men, and 6 teaspoons/25 grams/100 calories for women and children (ages 2-19) and children under the age of 2 should not consume sugars at all.
To get children started on a path leading to long, heart-healthy lives, Healthy Eating Research, has published the first ever guidelines for what kids, ages five and under, should be drinking. The guidelines were created in conjunction with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association, which provided the following summary for reference:
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