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Putting a face to diabetes statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 26 million people have diabetes in the United States, including an estimated seven million people who have the disease and haven't yet been diagnosed. Seventy-nine million people are likely dealing with pre-diabetes and are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes at some point in their lifetime.

Diabetes doesn't know race or gender: 13 million suffers are male; 12.6 million are female. Survey data from the CDC shows that 7.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites have diabetes, as do:

  • 8.4 percent of Asian Americans
  • 12.6 percent of non-Hispanic blacks
  • 11.8 percent of Hispanics

With so many people coping with the disease and its complications, it's not hard to put a face on diabetes. Fifty-five year old Ann Caldwell of St. Louis, Mo., is a perfect example: in addition to managing her own diabetes, she's a diabetes educator, fitness instructor and leads several local support groups.

Caldwell represents one-in-ten American women, according to the ADA. Caldwell was diagnosed with diabetes shortly after menopause and has since become a strong advocate for diabetes education. Her case isn't unusual; the American Diabetes Association reports that hormonal changes can impact blood glucose levels, ultimately leading to diabetes.

"Diabetes can be so overwhelming," she said. "It can impact so many parts of your daily life. That's why it's so important to do everything you can to manage your condition. If you don't, the complications can be worse that diabetes itself."

A closer look inside the numbers: complications

She knows that diabetes isn't the only thing she's working against. According to information from the CDC, diabetes complications can include the following:

  • Heart disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates and stroke rates about two to four times higher than adults without diabetes.
  • High blood pressure. Sixty-eight percent of diabetics over age 20 reported blood pressure equal to or greater than 140/90 mmHg or used prescription medications for hypertension.
  • Kidney failure. Forty-four percent of new cases of kidney failure in adults can be linked to diabetes.
  • Blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for adults over age 20.
  • Neuropathy. Up to seventy percent of individuals with diabetes experience some kind of nervous system damage, ranging from mild to severe.

Those risks have helped drive Caldwell in her quest to control her diabetes and teach others to do the same. In doing so, she's become an advocate for a healthy lifestyle. She spends several hours each week teaching water aerobics classes at a community pool and makes sure part of her diabetes support group meetings cover nutrition.

"Last week we had someone come in from a local culinary school," she said. "My group members love learning new recipes that they can incorporate into their daily routine. Staying on track with your diet can be a lot more fun when you're adding new things into the mix."

Control your diabetes to move past the statistics

Caldwell stresses how important diet is a tool to control diabetes. She insists that a diet low in carbohydrates can be almost as effective as some medications. She might be on to something: a 2009 study reported by Time magazine found that 56 percent of people with type 2 diabetes were able to lower their blood sugar to a healthy level with a low-carb diet alone. The CDC reports that 16 percent of Americans with diabetes can control their condition without insulin or oral medication. Other adults with diabetes aren't as lucky:

  • 12 percent take insulin only
  • 14 percent take insulin and oral medication
  • 58 percent take oral medication only

Regardless of how you choose to control your diabetes, Caldwell is certain that support is also one of the most important tools you have.

"My advice to anyone with diabetes is to make sure you have a solid support team," she said. "Let your family, friends and coworkers know that need them to be there for you and that you expect them to be your cheerleaders. Chances are, they'll happily take on the role because they care about you and want you to stay well."

Article sources  expand

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