The New Global Epidemic: DiabetesAndrea Sedillo
Throughout history, we can look back on multiple epidemics that have tragically killed humans throughout the world. Most historic epidemics were due to infectious diseases that were viral and bacterial in nature but with antibiotics and changes in hygiene, these are no longer the problem.
The Greatest Pandemic in Human History
Today, the new threat is lifestyle driven instead of germ driven. Epidemiologists are suggesting that diabetes is likely to become the greatest pandemic in human history.
A Global Problem
The Center for Disease Control has labeled diabetes an epidemic that currently affects nearly 30 million Americans and forecasts it to rise to nearly 55 million over the next decade. The World Health Organization has estimated the number of people affected by diabetes worldwide has risen nearly 300 percent and will affect 642 million by the year 2040. So, what is driving this current epidemic?
Chronic Disease Has Taken the Place of Infectious Disease
Today, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases and is one of the most common of our modern chronic diseases. Unlike the infectious disease epidemics throughout history, today’s problems are chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, strokes, and diabetes.
Our Industrialized Environment
Diabetes and its counterpart, obesity, are fueled by our very ingrained need to eat. But we no longer have to scavenge for our food. Over our evolution, our gut and brain triggered hunger and satiety. We stored fat for survival in times of starvation. But we no longer live in that primitive world and food is plentiful. In our industrialized environment, we no longer need to expend the energy that was once required to access our food. Add that to an industrialized food system that has affected the way we eat and gain weight and you have a systemic problem.
The Dangers of Diabetes
Today, we see diabetes resulting in dangerous consequences. According to the World Health Organization, over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nervous system. Adults diabetics show a two to three times risk for heart attacks and strokes. This, combined with a reduction in blood flow, can cause nerve damage in the extremities and often requires amputation. Damage to the eyes, called diabetic retinopathy, occurs due to accumulated damage to the blood vessels in the retina and can result in blindness. Diabetes is now one of the leading causes of kidney failure as well.
Lifestyle Changes Are Key
Lifestyle measures may help prevent type 2 diabetes. These include the maintenance of a healthy body weight, physical activity and a healthy diet avoiding sugar and saturated fat.
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