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The Disease That Will Affect Half the Nation by 2020

By Andrea Pennington. M.D.

Your wellness and self-empowerment doctor

The Huffington Post

Type 2 diabetes currently affects about 27 million Americans and is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the nation. A recent report published by UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform & Modernization estimates that over half of the U.S. population will have diabetes or prediabetes by the year 2020! This means that hundreds of millions of people will be at risk of having heart attacks, strokes, erectile dysfunction, dementia and early death due to a disease that is preventable and manageable!

Type 2 diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar that is closely tied to obesity, poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. Now, more than ever, it is vital that lifestyle interventions to lose weight and prevent pre-diabetes from developing into full-blown diabetes are put into action. Medication programs to ensure proper diabetes control are also important, but the majority of people can make moves — on their own — to keep this silent killer at bay.

One of my patients, who weighed 525 pounds at the tender age of 29, reversed a 12-year history of type 2 diabetes and got off of insulin and oral hypoglycemics by changing his lifestyle and nutrition with the help of The Pennington Plan for Weight Success, which includes a 5-step motivational strategy for weight loss and health recovery. So don’t assume that type 2 diabetes is a ‘death sentence’. You will need to make a total lifestyle switch to stay healthy, but at least you will be here to tell the tale!

Diagnosing Diabetes And Determining Your Risk
The blood test most commonly used in the evaluation of diabetes is the fasting plasma glucose test. The test is performed after an overnight or eight-hour fast during the day. Your blood is taken and sent to the lab to measure your glucose levels. The test results indicate whether your blood glucose level is normal, whether you have diabetes, or whether you have impaired glucose tolerance, which we now refer to as ‘pre-diabetes.’ Pre-diabetes is now more commonly used to emphasize the fact that without some lifestyle and nutrition intervention, the majority of people will go on to develop diabetes.

  • Normal: Normal blood sugar levels measure less than 100 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) after the fasting glucose test.
  • Prediabetes: Blood glucose levels of 100-125 mg/dl after an overnight or eight-hour fast is diagnosed as prediabetes. People with these results are considered to have impaired fasting glucose (IFG).
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is diagnosed when the blood glucose is 126 mg/dl or above.

There is a close link between obesity and diabetes type 2 risk. In fact, the majority of overweight or obese American adults either have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Therefore, weight loss is a good place to start in beating this silent killer. When a person puts on 11 to 16 pounds of body weight, they have double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those who gain 17 to 24 pounds triple their risk.

Losing about 10 percent of your body weight (if you’re overweight or obese) can help with insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management. Maintaining an active lifestyle, even by just walking 30 minutes a day, you can increase your body’s response to insulin (insulin sensitivity) and reduce your chances of needing medication to manage diabetes.

Not Just Deadly, Diabetes Is Costly As Well
The average, annual healthcare cost for people without diabetes is approximately $4,400. But for people with diabetes, the cost is $11,700. And for diabetes patients with complications, the average annual cost rises to $20,700. Add to this the impact on work productivity and employer costs and the numbers increase considerably.

Some 27 million Americans are known to have diabetes, and a further 67 million are thought to be pre-diabetic. And a good many of these folks don’t even know that they have these conditions because type 2 diabetes can hang out with you without showing any symptoms at all. The same is the case with pre-diabetes.

It’s time to break free from old programming that says we should eat what we want, when we want in the quantities we want and instead start to nourish our bodies and move our bodies to reclaim our natural state of wellness. And since diabetes follows a progressive course, we must intervene early before it’s too late.

Go see your doctor. Find out your fasting blood glucose level and a hemoglobin A1c, which measures the average amount of glucose in the blood over a three month period. It’s also wise to know your entire cholesterol profile, including total HDL, LDL and VLDL. Don’t assume that these numbers aren’t trending upward.

It’s A Team Effort
You don’t need to be in this alone. Studies show that if you have a buddy or family member who is also on the journey to better health you will be more likely to succeed. Accountability is also critical, having a coach can support you with a foundation for success, a structured plan of action that you can follow, and the motivational support you need for continual effort in re-building your life.

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