Type 2 Diabetes –The Big Picture

Type 2 diabetes is a very serious illness, but the good news is that it can be prevented and controlled. When discussing Type 2 diabetes, it is important to understand the size and scope of the problem. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), Type 2 Diabetes is an enormous problem for the people and health care system of the United States. It is estimated that 25.8 million Americans (8.3% of the population) have this disease. The incidence of this disease is rising at a phenomenal rate: In 2010, 1.9 million new cases were identified  and the incidence of new diagnosed Type 2 diabetes per year has tripled since 1980. If this trend continues, by 2050, as many as 1 in every 3 Americans may have this disease.

New Mexico follows the national trend: it is estimated that 8.1% of New Mexicans have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and another 3.1% have the disease but are not yet diagnosed. This means that about 11.2% of the people living in our State have Type 2 diabetes.

Nationally, the cost of treating diabetes in 2012 was estimated at more than $245 billion, an increase of 40% in five years.

But what is Type 2 Diabetes? We may know that it results in elevated blood sugar, but why? And what does this mean? What are the consequences? What are the risks?

The very basic problem with this disease is the biologic cells of the body become resistant to the effect of insulin. Insulin is the critical hormone in the body which controls the movement of glucose into the cell. Without normal response to insulin and glucose regulation, virtually every system in the body is adversely affected.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, renal failure, and amputations of the extremities (excluding trauma), and the 7th leading cause of death. However, as a major contributing factor to cardiovascular disease and stroke, it is a leading factor in the most prevalent causes of death in our country. Persons with diabetes have a significantly shorter life expectancy than those without the disease.

Type 2 diabetes is a very serious illness which causes major health problems and early death. However, Type 2 Diabetes is preventable and controllable.

What are the risk factors?
According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity is a primary risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes. The rise in the epidemic of diabetes is matched by the rise in obesity in our country. Being as little as 33 pounds overweight may result in a six-fold increase in the risk of diabetes. Inactivity and lack of exercise results in increased weight, higher blood glucose and more insulin resistance. We are more at risk if our parents or siblings have diabetes. Persons who tend to store their body fat centrally or in the abdominal area have a higher incidence of diabetes. The incidence of diabetes increases with age, particularly after age 45. However, we are seeing a very alarming increase in Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescence as the incidence of obesity increases in this population. Race plays a factor: Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans have higher rates of diabetes. Finally, a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), and a history of prediabetes (elevated glucose but not to diabetic levels) are risk factors as well.

Now that we know the risk factors, which can we change? Which can we positively influence?
Obviously, our age, race and family history cannot be changed. However, the primary risk factor, obesity, can be very much influenced. And, when as little as 5% weight loss is combined with 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, the risk of diabetes is reduced 58%!  It is imperative we adopt healthier lifestyles and take responsibility for our health. Nutritious food choices including protein and vegetables and avoiding sugar and carbohydrates is a good first step. There are rarely any good choices in fast food venues. Cookies, chips, candy and other “junk” food should have no place in our home. Exercise should be a part of our weekly routine. Make a habit of a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week. These eating and exercise lifestyles should be a family affair…adults and children should all participate.

Talk with your doctor about your diabetes risk factors and testing. If you are already diabetic, follow the diet, exercise and medication instructions carefully. Monitor your blood sugar and maintain regular follow up. If you are obese, aggressively pursue weight loss. In some circumstances, if your BMI is over 35, weight loss surgery may be a part of your strategy to beat diabetes.

We owe it to ourselves… We owe it to our children… To take responsibility for our lives and decisions regarding our health. It is time to make a change for sustained health.

Other resources include the New Mexico Health Department, a local dietician, such as Sara Flores, RD, or your local hospital. Websites such as the American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org, Obesity Help, www.obeityhelp.com, or MountainView Weight Loss Center, www.mountainviewweightloss.com, can all provide valuable information or call 575-521-8860.

Frank Felts, M.D., is a board certified general surgeon who practices at MountainView Weight Loss Center.  He has performed more than 2500 weight loss surgeries in his career, and recently began procedures at MountainView Regional Medical Center, and is accepting new patients. 

Dr. Felts is a Member of the Medical Staff at MountainView Regional Medical Center. Individual results may vary. Consult your physician about the benefits and risks of weight loss surgery.

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