According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 29.9 million people with diabetes, or 9.3% of the U.S. population, a number which continues to grow.   Diabetes is the third largest cause of death among Americans, and the leading cause of blindness and non-traumatic amputations.

A chronic, debilitating and often deadly disease, Diabetes is a chronic condition that arises when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin produced.   Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps ‘sugar’ (glucose) to leave the blood and enter the cells of the body to be used as ‘fuel’. When a person has diabetes, either their pancreas does not produce the insulin they need (type 1 diabetes) or their body cannot make effective use of the insulin they produce (type 2 diabetes).   This condition is the fourth leading cause of death in most developed countries.  Each year, over three million deaths worldwide are attributable to diabetes-related causes.

A global epidemic, Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions. In 2003, the IDF estimated that approximately 194 million people around the world had diabetes. By 2025 this figure is expected to rise to 333 million, amounting to 6.3% of the world’s population living with diabetes.  The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is rising at an alarming rate throughout the world, due to increases in life expectancy, obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Of particular cause for concern is the dramatic rise of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.  Examples of the dramatic rise can be found in India and China. India is host to the largest diabetes population in the world with an estimated 35 million people, amounting to 8% of the adult population. In China, where 2.7% of the adult population is affected by type 2 diabetes, the number of people with this condition is likely to exceed 50 million within the next 25 years.

Here are answers to five common questions about diabetes:

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in patients under 18, but can strike at any age. Those with Type 1 diabetes need insulin to manage their disease. Type 2 diabetes is traditionally diagnosed in adults, and generally treated with changes to diet and exercise habits, as well as oral medication or insulin.

What are the common symptoms of diabetes?

There may not be any, although common symptoms include frequent thirst and hunger, having to urinate more than usual, losing weight without trying to, fatigue, and crankiness. If you’re concerned, get your blood-glucose level checked.

Does having a family member with diabetes raise the odds of developing the disease?

Yes. It raises the risk of developing type 1 by about 5% and type 2 diabetes by more than 30%.

Can diet or exercise really help prevent diabetes?

Exercise and a healthy diet rich in whole grains, protein, veggies, and fruit, and low in fat, cholesterol, and simple sugars helps keep off excess weight, which can prevent or at least delay diabetes. If you already have diabetes, exercising helps by encouraging the muscles to take up more blood sugar.

Is there anything I can do if I am diagnosed with pre-diabetes?

Yes. Many people who are “on the verge” of developing diabetes can prevent it from getting worse by changing certain behaviors. That’s why early diagnosis is so important.

The risk of long-term diabetic complications can be greatly reduced by:

• Simple lifestyle changes (healthier diets, increased physical activity, not smoking)

• Good control of blood glucose levels, blood pressure and blood fats (including cholesterol and triglycerides) 

• Appropriate healthcare and improved healthcare education for the general public, particularly those at risk


Rob Calarco
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