The time to get serious about this threat is now!
By Travis Grubbs
July 2008 — In case you have been hiding out in the jungles of South America, gas prices are at an all-time high. The continuing rise of gas prices dominates the news sources on television, radio, the internet, newspapers, etc. In my area, regular unleaded just passed four dollars a gallon. I frequently hear people complaining about being squeezed by high fuel prices, and how they are changing their driving habits in order to save gas and money. I also hear complaints about how high fuel prices are driving-up (no pun intended) grocery prices, and again I hear how people are changing their buying habits in order to cope with rising food costs.
Our society's reaction to high gas prices is not just limited to consumers. The auto industry is now taking steps to reduce the production of "gas guzzlers" and increase the production of more economical vehicles. However, they did not do this out of the "goodness of their hearts," but instead due to the lack of consumer demand for the un-economical vehicles. Employers, like mine, are giving their employees a break, and allowing them to save money on gas, by permitting them to work four ten hour days as opposed to five eight hour days.
I am encouraged by our society's response to high fuel prices, and I often wonder how many people are willing to make lifestyle changes in order to deal with the health crisis that is encroaching on our country. In the past few weeks I have read articles (from the American Diabetes Association, dLife, etc.) reporting that in the U.S. nearly twenty-four million people, an increase of three million in the past two years, have been diagnosed with diabetes. The majority of these cases are type 2 diabetes. The number of children with obesity and type 2 diabetes are also on the rise.
It is estimated that in the U.S. fifty-seven million people have prediabetes, with alll of these being candidates for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is now the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. The only good news is that the percentage of people who have diabetes, and do not know it, dropped from thirty percent to twenty-five percent. I am of the opinion that while more people are becoming more informed about diabetes, they continue to ignore the warnings and our "diabetes nation" continues to grow.
Our society continues to eat it self into doctor's offices, hospitals, and an early grave. We see it all around us in restaurants, grocery stores, television, the internet, etc., etc., but we continue with our same old habits. The restaurant and fast food industry makes token gestures by offering "healthy alternatives / choices," while still keeping the popular and un-healthy choices on their menus. And let's not forget about the sizes of those meals. When you go out to eat you not only get to eat great tasting food, but you get lots of it too! Yeah, you could ask for a to go box, but it might not warm-up as good as a "left-over." The food industry is not going to help address our over weight society unless the consumers force them to address this issue.
The real winner in this crisis is the drug companies. Their market continues to grow. A couple of years ago, I read an article that stated the population of those with type 1 diabetes was too small to make a cure profitable enough for the drug companies to pursue. The author predicted that the future for a cure for diabetes was more likely for type 2 diabetes since the "market" continued to expand. My opinion is that drug companies are making so much money treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes, that they are not overly concerned about finding a cure.
I am one of those people that did not care about the health risks, and I now help keep the drug companies in business, pay for their employees' vacations, and help send their kids to college. As our society continues to gorge itself and has to buy larger clothes, has any one asked how, or more importantly who, is going to pay for the medication and treatment required to treat type 2 diabetes for this expanding group? I don't think the government and insurance companies are the answer. The aging baby boomers are going to bust the present system. The individual with type 2 diabetes will be left with paying high premiums, high co-payments, and some will be left paying the full costs of their medication.
What does it take to get people to "wake up" and start planning for the future by taking care of themselves today? While I appreciate the education efforts of the government, the American Diabetes Association, dLife, physicians, and the experiences and testimonies of others that have "been there and done that," they are still falling on a lot of deaf ears. Waiting to "clean up your act" after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will not leave you happily skipping through the rest of your life. I lost 45 pounds after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. My blood sugars are excellent and my A1C is 5.6. My doctor praises my progress and encourages me to continue my efforts in order to ward off the serious complications associated with diabetes.
Unfortunately my efforts have not been enough. In the past two months I have begun exhibiting muscle cramps and joint pain in my legs while trying to sleep at night, and while sitting for long periods of time. My sleep is also being frequently interrupted. My doctor thinks I may be exhibiting signs of Fibromyalga. The muscle and joint pain increases when I exercise. For the past several weeks I have not exercised in order to be able to get more sleep at night. At times I struggle with not becoming depressed, discouraged, and frustrated. I have tried to manage my diabetes, and now up comes another complication.
I relay this information not for sympathy or attention, but to educate the uninformed. Simply addressing your condition after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may not be enough to hold off further complications. The time to get serious about this threat is now!
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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Like many of us who live near major cities, I've been to a few ADA Diabetes Expos — my first in November, 2003, just over a year after diagnosis. The Expo took up a large part of New York City's Javits Center; most of the major meter, insulin, pump, and pill manufacturers were there; there were enough food vendors (with free samples!)...