Within the past twenty years, the prevalence of diabetes among U.S. adults has grown by 45 percent, with the greatest increase seen among seniors aged 65 and over, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently diabetes affects one in ten U.S. adults, but government health officials say that with the aging population, the risk of this condition increasing is very high. Approximately 18.8 million Americans are living with diabetes today, and another seven million people are unaware that they have the disease. A new study by the CDC report predicts that the number of new cases of diabetes found in individuals will increase from 8 per 1,000 people to 15 per 1,000 people in the next forty years.
Why is diabetes in the American population increasing so rapidly? There are several reasons for this, but a primary cause is the overwhelming number of obese individuals in the United States. Approximately 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese.
According to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), diabetes and obesity are the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century. Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. About 80 to 90 percent of patients with diabetes are also classified as obese. Although obesity is not the only factor in the development of diabetes, the two conditions are definitely linked to one another. Being obese increases the risk for diabetes and worsening control of blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, which in turn makes cardiovascular disease more likely. Not only does being overweight interrupt your body’s ability to maintain proper glucose levels, it can also cause your body to become resistant to insulin. In this case the pancreas will continue to put out high levels of insulin until it eventually can no longer meet the body’s requirements. It is then that insulin levels begin to decrease and blood sugar levels increase, ultimately leading to diabetes.
New studies are finding that almost 25 percent of veteran patients have diabetes. Memorial Day, this coming Monday, May 27, is a day of remembering the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day, but it is also seen as the traditional start of summer. With that being said, it is a perfect time to get out there, be active and start a new kind of work out plan for the summer months! Regular exercise helps control the amount of sugar in the blood, improve insulin sensitivity and increases levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. It also burns excess calories and fat to help you achieve optimal weight as well as giving you more energy during the day to do everyday tasks.
Summer is also the season of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pineapple, mango, watermelon, strawberries and blueberries are just a few of the numerous fruits that will be readily available to incorporate into your everyday diet, along with fresh vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce varieties and many more.
Whether you are a veteran or a civilian, you can reduce your risk of diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight through incorporating a variety of healthy foods (including fruits and vegetables) into your daily meal plan and increasing your physical activity. We wish you all a happy and safe Memorial Day and hope you get out there and enjoy the first day of summer!
Written by: Regina Zorich, Southeast Missouri State University