More than 100 million Americans have either diabetes or prediabetes. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, the numbers are steadily growing, along with the burden in medical treatment and corresponding health care costs.
While Utah does have somewhat lower rates than other parts of the country, we have been spared little.
Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus as it’s formally known in medical terms, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which a person develops high blood glucose (blood sugar). The underlying health factors causing the high blood sugar will determine whether someone is diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is more commonly diagnosed in children. The peak incidence is 12-14 years of age, hence the title of “juvenile diabetes.” While many health experts have stopped using the term “juvenile,” most of the general public still recognizes the term.
Type 2 is most often diagnosed after the age of 40. When type 2 does occur in children, it is usually at the time of puberty.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Over time, the immune system gradually destroys these cells, so insulin is no longer produced. The affected individual must then depend on an external source of insulin for life.
Researchers do not fully understand why the immune system that normally fights off viruses and bacteria that are harmful to the body, now actually attacks the body itself. Triggering this autoimmune response is a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors.
Type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas still produces insulin, but the body is unable to use it properly due to insulin resistance, thus making the body less able to lower blood sugar levels.
Genetics also play a role in raising someone’s risk for type 2 diabetes, as they do for type 1. However, unlike type 1 diabetes, lifestyle factors, such as obesity and lack of physical activity, significantly add to a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
While there is no known way to prevent a child from developing type 1, diabetes, keeping active and staying within your ideal body weight can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Both type 1 and type 2 share similar symptoms, including excessive thirst, increased urination, increased infections, fatigue, weight loss and blurred vision. However, there are often differences in how rapidly symptoms show up. With type 1, the symptoms come on over just a few days, while type 2 may worsen over the course of years before being detected.
Diabetes is a serious condition that can be managed through lifestyle changes including diet and the use of insulin. People with diabetes are at increased risk of vision loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations and of course, premature death.
Successfully managed however, the disease can be treated and patients can essentially live normal lives.
The overall prevalence for diabetes in Utah varies, with the highest being in Box Elder, San Juan and Tooele counties with overall percentages of approximately 9.9 percent, and the state’s low in Summit County at around 4.2 percent.
The overall percentage for Utah adults is 7.7 percent. We compare favorably with Idaho at 7.0 percent, Wyoming at 7.8 percent, Nevada at 8.8 percent, and with Colorado at 6.9 percent. The overall U.S. percentage is 9.4 percent.
Some of the highest incidences of adult diabetes are found in Texas at 10.8 percent, Georgia at 11.0 percent and West Virginia at 12 percent. In general, higher rates of diabetes are found in the South and the lowest in the Intermountain region.
Health officials cite factors such as age, nationality, education levels and other cultural factors for differences in rates of diabetes. Rates of diagnosed cases are higher among American Indians/Alaska Natives (15.1 percent) non-Hispanic blacks (12.7 percent) and Hispanics (12.1 percent) compared to Asians (8.0 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (7.4 percent).
As noted, education is also a significant factor. Among U.S. adults with less than a high school education, 12.6 percent have diabetes. Among those with a high school education, 7.2 percent suffer from this condition.
So, I guess the message is to exercise, eat a good diet, watch your weight, pay attention to your body and of course, stay in school.