Diabetes complications show historic declines; epidemic continues

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Researchers Wednesday reported significant declines in some complications of Type 2 diabetes.

According to the study, published in the The New England Journal of Medicine, rates of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and amputations dropped sharply over the past two decades.

“Given that diabetes is the chronic epidemic of this millennium, this is a very important finding,” Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Boston Globe. 

The biggest declines were in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, which each dropped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 2010, the period studied.

Strokes and amputations of the legs, ankles, feet, and toes fell by about half. Rates for end-stage kidney failure fell about 30 percent. The study did not measure blindness, another critical diabetes complication.

Despite the hopeful declines, Type 2 diabetes remains a serious epidemic.

The number of diabetics more than tripled during the study period to nearly 26 million according to the American Diabetes Association. Another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which means they are at high risk for diabetes.

The rise in obesity rates has been linked to Type 2 diabetes.

  • Over one-third of U.S. adults are obese
  • Approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents, almost 20 percent, are obese.

Diabetes and related complications are estimated to account for $176 billion in annual medical costs.

Managing My Type 2 Diabetes

– What is diabetes?

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. This is also called hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn't able to keep up and can't make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.

– What are the risk factors for diabetes?

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes. So is age, family history, ethnicity and lack of physical activity. And there are other risk factors.

– Tips for controlling diabetes

If you have Type 2 Diabetes, it’s important to test your blood sugar and manage medications with your doctor. Diet and exercise are also critical. The American Diabetes Association says eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise will help you control your weight and can keep your blood glucose in the healthy range, which can help prevent or delay complications. Losing weight can also improve your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.

– What Does “Healthy Eating” Really Mean?

  • Eating a variety of foods, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy foods, healthy fats, and lean meats or meat substitutes.
  • Trying not to eat too much food.
  • Trying not to eat too much of one type of food.
  • Spacing your meals evenly throughout the day.
  • Not skipping meals.

The American Diabetes Association says you don’t need any special tools and don’t need to do any counting to eat well with diabetes. You just need to focus on filling your plate with more non-starchy vegetables and less starchy foods and meats.

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