What you can do about the growing rate of diabetes
It’s an alarming projection: more than half a million additional people could be living with diabetes by 2060. That’s according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings, published in American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes Care, are estimated based on population growth trends and the current incidence of diabetes.
And while this projection is extremely concerning, Dr. Vidhya Viswanathan, a pediatric endocrinologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., says that number may be underestimated.
“The data from this study is from 2002-2017, which means it doesn’t capture the COVID years,” she explains. “If you look at the longitudinal outcomes of COVID, cases of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increased exponentially. In 2020 and 2021, we saw many more new onset diabetes cases, so my concern is this study may actually be underpredicting rates of diabetes cases in 2060.”
Dr. Viswanathan says that diabetes on its own is a difficult disease, but dangerous complications can also result including cardiovascular disease. And the younger an individual has new onset diabetes, the greater their chance of developing complications.
“More severe complications can result in kids with type 2 diabetes compared to adults with type 2. Youth with type 2 diabetes is our largest increasing incidence of diabetes. This is causing significant economic and racial disparities in health care because the individuals developing type 2 diabetes at a rapid rate tend to be non-Hispanic Black youth. The ecological, economic and emotional burden families face when a child has a chronic disease is grave.”
Dr. Viswanathan says the growing diabetes rate is a major pediatric population health issue.
“We need to target our efforts toward preventing AND treating obesity,” she urges. “It’s difficult to lose weight but extremely easy to gain it. We can start by focusing on making just one healthier choice each day. Eating healthy has to be a lifestyle goal and change. Fad diets result in weight loss but are difficult to continue long term. Genetics plays a big role in weight gain, so discussing treatment options with a doctor is also important.”
She says understanding what is in your food and where it comes from is a great start.
“Don’t just look at calories – check labels to see what a serving size is. Can you pronounce the ingredients in your food? If you can’t, should you be eating it? Reevaluate what you give your kids and what is in your pantry. These are small steps we can all take”
Want to learn more about your risk for diabetes? Take a free online quiz here.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.