Worldwide there are now at least 124 million people who have diabetes and of that number 97% have type 2 diabetes (English & Williams, 2001). This figure is predicted to reach 221 million by the year 2010 (English & Williams, 2001). In the year 2000 there were 17 million Americans who are suffering from diabetes (Carmona, 2002). With type 1 diabetes the body is incapable of producing insulin. With type 2 diabetes the body can still produce insulin but the cells do not respond to it normally (Metzger & Kotulak, 2006).
There is a link between type 2 diabetes and obesity. There is also a link between type 2 diabetes and physical inactivity. Therefore, this is a disease that is related to the changing lifestyles in the 21st century, wherein Americans prefer to eat calorie-dense foods but at the same time are unable to burn the excess calories from food due to inactivity.
There are two types of diabetes. There is type 1 diabetes and there is also type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is characterized by the inability of the body to produce insulin. Thus, those who are afflicted with type 1 will have to regularly take insulin shots in order for them to live a normal life. Type 2 diabetes on the other hand can only be understood by first looking into the mechanism involved in food intake and the way the body uses the food as fuel.
When food is consumed it is broken down into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose is then transported to the various organs of the body through the bloodstream. Insulin is the hormone that unlocks the “key” so that cells can absorb glucose and allow it to do its work (Metzger & Kotulak, 2006). With type 2 diabetes the cells are now resistant to the effect of insulin and therefore glucose begins to build up in the blood.
Type 2 diabetes is now a major health concern in the United States. In the not so distant past, this disease is associated with old age. As men and women mature there are significant changes in their bodies. Their metabolism slows down due to age and their body composition will change so that there is lower muscle mass (Metzger & Kotulak, 2006). This means more body fat and less ability to burn excess calories.
Thus, Americans approaching old age are prone to type 2 diabetes. In the 21st century more and more Americans under the age of 40 are suffering from this medical condition. In fact, very overweight children and young adults are developing type 2 diabetes in the United States and all over the world (Metzger & Kotulak, 2006). It is also important to point out that in the United States, 85 to 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight (Metzger & Kotulak, 2006). It has become a major health concern for many families. The medical bills are piling up and many are dying prematurely.
Type 2 diabetes may sound harmless but make no mistake it is a deadly medical condition. This is because there are many health complications resulting from type 2 diabetes. First of all there is a link between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes. If nothing is done to curb the problem then Americans should expect 883,000 CVD deaths by 2025 (Carmona, 2002). Aside form that diabetes is the most common cause of blindness and severe vision impairment. They are also at increased risk for pregnancy complications, high blood pressure, nervous system damage, dental disease, stroke, and pneumonia related deaths (Carmona, 2002).
There are more than 200,000 diabetes related death that occur every year (Carmona, 2002). At the same time the cost of the disease is estimated at $100 billion (Carmona, 2002). This was supported by another study which states that people with diabetes occupy 20% of American general hospital beds while each year 28% of the national healthcare budget goes to treating type 2 diabetes (English & Williams, 2001). These significant sums of money can go a long way if used to build schools and to enhance the U.S. education system. But instead of using the funds for more important matters, it is funneled to help those who are sick from a preventable disease.
Different racial groups have different prevalence for the disease but there is a strong link between the adoption of a western lifestyle and type 2 diabetes (English & Williams, 2001). For instance the Japanese and the Europeans were spared from this epidemic. But when they immigrated to the United States they lost their traditional way of life and experienced rapid westernization (English & Williams, 2001). They are now experiencing the impact of consuming energy-rich foods and decreased physical activity. It is time to increase awareness of a very preventable disease.
Walking down the streets of America, one will find it difficult not to notice obese men, women, and children. This is because it is also equally difficult to walk the streets without spotting a fast-food joint. The first major challenge in solving the epidemic called type 2 diabetes is food. It is much easier and at the same time it is much cheaper to get junk food such as chips and fried food at McDonald’s and other fast food outlets. It is more expensive to buy more nutritious and less energy dense food in other restaurants. With problems in the economy and people trying to save money, there will be an increase in the consumption of junk food.
The statistics provided earlier should be enough to spur Americans to action. Premature deaths and mounting medical bills should develop a healthy dread for the disease. The first thing that people should remember is that this disease is preventable. This is not a communicable disease that is caused by a virus or bacteria; type 2 diabetes is caused by a lifestyle characterized by a marked decrease in physical activity and the consumption of energy-rich foods. Thus, the first line of defense should be education. Increasing the awareness of the causes and consequences of type 2 diabetes must begin at home and in school.
Parents must be aware of the impact of not eating with their children. In an urban setting where parents have to work long hours, it is normal for them to come home late. Their children had to take care of themselves while they are away and the best way to satisfy their hunger is to order fast food or to cook food that is easy to prepare. The only problem is that these kinds of products are also high in calories. If parents really need to work long hour, they must think of a short term solution for their child’s unhealthy eating patterns (Melanson, 2008). One way of doing this is to reduce junk food in the house. This means less of the sugary drinks and more on fruits and vegetables. Parents can also prepare food in advance so that their children will not be forced to eat junk.
Teachers can also play a major role in increasing awareness when it comes to type 2 diabetes. The classroom can be a good place to start learning about this medical condition. Teachers can design an interesting and fun way to learn about diabetes while discussing serious issues related to the disease. The teachers can lay down a foundation of knowledge and awareness that fast food and various forms of junk food can lead to obesity and then to diabetes.
The second major challenge to solving the problems associated with obesity is the lack of physical activity. The inability to exercise exacerbates the impact of eating high-calorie food. This is because there is no way to burn off excess calories and this in turn increases the weight of the person. If the person is already morbidly obese then his mobility is affected, creating a chain reaction of problems that will lead to a more sedentary lifestyle while at the same time increasing the risk of other health complications. There must be a way to encourage Americans to be more active.
This will be the most difficult challenge in the fight against obesity because the American lifestyle is already geared towards a labor saving culture. In other words, machines and tools were created precisely to eliminate the amount of manual labor needed. In the past, people are complaining about the need to perform back-breaking work just to provide food for their family. Today, the same thing is no longer applicable to many Americans.
There are more employees working in cubicles and small air-conditioned offices as compared to farmers and laborers who work in the field. In the modern setting workers are not using their muscles to produce a product or offer a service, they use their minds instead to operate computers and other equipment for the sake of efficiency.
Schools and non-government organizations can encourage children and adolescents to increase regular physical activity. This will help promote a healthy body weight and body composition, making them less susceptible to type 2 diabetes (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008). Teachers and parents must educate children and adolescents that there are other benefits of exercise aside from achieving a healthier body. A fit and healthy person can experience a more quality of life as opposed to someone who is morbidly obese.
Solving the type 2 diabetes problem will require a more concerted effort that will include the school, the government and the local community. If people are ignorant about the cause and consequence of diabetes then the health problem will continue to escalate and claim more lives. The education of children is just the beginning. In order to significantly reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes related deaths there is a need for all the members of the community to get involve.
Type 2 diabetes is a silent killer. It is not like other communicable diseases where the patient can see symptoms and be alerted to the need for immediate treatment and intervention. Type 2 diabetes sufferers can have the disease and many do not know about it. Moreover, the disease can develop slowly over time. Those who are consuming high-calorie food and yet at the same time have sedentary lifestyle are prone to type 2 diabetes. The rising number of death due to diabetes is alarming and something has to be done to significantly curb the deadly effects of diabetes.
It must start with a well-designed information campaign. It must start in three areas: at home, in school, and in the community. The local community can initiate exercise programs such as aerobic exercises during the weekends or the staging of marathons etc. This will encourage many to increase their levels of physical activity. A concerted effort can also educate children and adolescents that they must watch what they will eat. They must realize that type 2 diabetes has already claimed many lives there is no reason for the trend to continue.
Carmona, R. (2002). Progress Review. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Web.
English, P. & G. Williams. (2001). Type 2 Diabetes. KY: Taylor & Francis.
Melanson, K. (2008). Lifestyle approaches to promoting healthy eating for children. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2(1): 26-29.
Metzger, B. & D. Kotulak. (2006). American Medical Association Guide to Living with Diabetes. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2008). Chapter 3: Active Children and Adolescents. Web.