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By Lisa Browdy
If I had to point to one thing that turned me from a couch potato to a fairly health-conscious person, it was the fear of getting diabetes. I watched my dad suffer from the complications of adult onset (type 2) diabetes for many years, and I had a small taste of it myself when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy.
American Diabetes Month is "a time to communicate the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of diabetes prevention and control," according to the American Diabetes Association. Its mission is to raise awareness of the disease and its serious complications. An estimated 23.6 million people in the United States have diabetes, and that number is growing.
In type 1 diabetes (usually diagnosed in children and teens), the body does not produce insulin. Only five percent of diabetics have this form. Type 2 diabetes (which we will discuss here) used to be called "Adult onset," because it usually appeared in the patient's 40s. Now, of course, doctors see small children who have become diabetic, so they changed the moniker to Type 2. In this type, either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells are not able to use it.
Type 2 diabetics exponentially increase their risk of death from coronary heart disease, and will decrease their life expectancy by about 15 years. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputations.
Every 17 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Recent estimates project that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless we work together to change things.
This is a disease that frankly, pisses me off. I take it personally because of my family's experience, of course, but mostly because it is so darn preventable. Documentaries like Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Forks Over Knives depict people who have reversed their diabetes (and other chronic health conditions) by consuming a strictly vegan diet. Because that requires a huge commitment to lifestyle change, it can be extremely effective. But in my health coaching practice, I am more apt to recommend a series of baby steps for long-term change. Either way, it is well worth the time and effort to stop this disease that steals years from our lives and life from our years.
To learn more, mark your calendars for the Diabetes Expo on Saturday, November 12 from 9:00 am to noon at West Suburban Medical Center, 3 Erie Court in Oak Park. This free event includes health screenings, nutritional information, and experts talking about diabetes management and prevention. Please call 866-938-7256 to register.