Diabetes quadruples in three decades
A rapid rise in diabetic cases has caused the World Health Organization (WHO) to call on health care providers, government, food producers, pharmaceuticals and technology companies to work together to step up prevention and treatment of the disease.
In its first Global Diabetes Report, the WHO says that the number of people living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980 to more than 422 million. This fatal disease killed 1.5 million people in 2012, and experts predict that number will more than likely double in the next 20 years. In addition, the medical costs associated with the disease are estimated at $827 billion annually.
Researchers say aging populations and rising levels of obesity across the world mean diabetes is becoming “a defining issue for global public health.”
“Obesity is the most important risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and our attempts to control rising rates of obesity have so far not proved successful,” said Majid Ezzati, who led the WHO research, in a news release.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. For those who suffer from type 1 diabetes, their body does not produce insulin, which is necessary to break down sugar and starch so that glucose can be released for energy.
The most common form of diabetes is Type 2, where the body either becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas gradually stops producing enough insulin. Contributing factors for developing Type 2 diabetes are genetics and lifestyle factors such as excess weight and inactivity, according to the ADA.
“If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthy, be physically active and avoid excessive weight gain,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, in a statement.
Jaye Leopold, a diabetes clinical nurse specialist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says that before someone develops Type 2 diabetes, they almost always have prediabetes. Prediabetes is caused when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
“Sadly, many people ignore slightly higher glucose levels and may already have complications by the time treatment begins. Early recognition and prevention are very important in reversing these critical trends,” says Leopold.
One out of three Americans has prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without lifestyle changes to improve their health, 15 to 30 percent of these patients will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
The Global Diabetes Report shows the need for prevention efforts and strategies to combat the disease. According to WHO, nearly three-quarters of countries across the globe have a diabetes policy and dedicated funding to address unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. However, less than half of these countries are actually implementing these policies and promoting lifestyle changes.
“Everyone has a role to play. Governments, health care providers, people with diabetes and those who care for them, civil society, food producers, manufacturers and suppliers of medicines and technology are all stakeholders,” according to the report. “Collectively, they can all make a significant contribution to halt the rise in diabetes and improve the lives of those living with the disease.”
About the Author
Johnna Kelly, healthe news contributor, is a manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly 10 years as a public relations professional working for state and county government. During her time as a communications staffer for the Illinois General Assembly, she was integral in drafting and passing legislation creating Andrea's Law, the nation's first murderer registry. In her spare time, she volunteers at a local homeless shelter, enjoys traveling, photography and watching the Chicago Bulls.