Having a diabetic parent, I have tried to establish some good habits that may help me avoid developing the illness. My father was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes when I was in college. I am really proud of the way he has responded to his diagnosis. The man who once said he would rather die than give up eating the foods that he loves has modified his diet and has been very faithful about walking daily for exercise. His birthday is coming up this weekend. I am grateful that he is taking care of himself, so he is around to celebrate more birthdays. Happy birthday, Dad!
A funny side note: my parents live in a rural area, and there have been many occasions when people have stopped to offer help upon seeing them out walking. It’s very kind, but is it really such a strange sight to see people out for a walk? Anyway…
I am definitely not perfect when it comes to nutrition and exercise, but my family history has encouraged me to make an effort in these areas.
Now I have children, and I strive to set a good example for them and provide them with good food choices and the opportunity to be active, and by that, I am not necessarily talking about signing them up in sports programs. We do some of that, but I also do my best to allow them adequate time for unstructured active play. It is pretty easy to schedule so many things that there isn’t much time to just play outside, and I try to avoid that level of scheduled activities. I want my kids to have time to just play. I think it’s good for them to work out their own games and adventures. (Yes, they come up with all kinds of adventures.)
My children actually have a grandparent with diabetes on each side of the family. (We have reason to be proud of both of these relatives for making lifestyle changes to address the diabetes.) It is too bad that M. & G. have inherited this genetic double whammy, and that is all the more reason why I want to encourage them to make healthy choices in their lives.
I will leave you with some statistics about diabetes. Now you know one more reason that I am working to make better food choices and incorporate exercise into my life. We all have our own paths, our own reasons for the choices we make. If you’d care to share your path to fitness or a change in the way you eat, I’d love to hear from you.
Data from the 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet (the most recent year for which data is available)
Total: 23.6 million children and adults in the United States—7.8% of the population—have diabetes.
Morbidity and Mortality
Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2006. This ranking is based on the 72,507 death certificates in 2006 in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death. According to death certificate reports, diabetes contributed to a total of 233,619 deaths in 2005, the latest year for which data on contributing causes of death are available.
Heart disease and stroke, High blood pressure, Blindness, Kidney disease, Nervous system disease (Neuropathy), Amputation
Cost of Diabetes
$174 billion: Total costs of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2007. Factoring in the additional costs of undiagnosed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and gestational diabetes brings the total cost of diabetes in the United States in 2007 to $218 billion.
What Leads to Diabetes?
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes. Yet two factors are important in both. First, you must inherit a predisposition to the disease. Second, something in your environment must trigger diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes has a stronger genetic basis than type 1, yet it also depends more on environmental factors. Sound confusing? What happens is that a family history of type 2 diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for getting the disease but it only seems to matter in people living a Western lifestyle.
Americans and Europeans eat too much fat and too little carbohydrate and fiber, and they get too little exercise. Type 2 diabetes is common in people with these habits. In contrast, people who live in areas that have not become Westernized tend not to get type 2 diabetes, no matter how high their genetic risk.
Obesity is a strong risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Obesity is most risky for young people and for people who have been obese for a long time.