Since I had slept for 11 hours the night before, I felt up to the task of staying up a bit later and watching The Charlie Rose Show on Thursday night. Have any of you ever seen it? Its a PBS broadcast at night, topical guests for lengthy interviews. Sometimes I watch it, sometimes I Tivo it. The Tivo by the way, LOVE IT! Anyway, Thursday's show was a bit of a shocker, and no, not because Zbigniew Brzezinski says that we are in a mess in Iraq, no it was about the second half of the show, about the diabetes epidemic going on in the world.
Today diabetes is the ONLY disease that is increasing in our country, not decreasing. In fact while most other causes of death have decreased by 40% or more, death by diabetes has increased by 45%! Right now an African-American or Hispanic child has a 50/50 shot of developing childhood type 2 diabetes. Right now, diabetes is the second leading cause of death in America, and right now, more vets have their limbs removed because of diabetes then they do from IED's. Right now there are nearly 21 million Americans with diabetes, and 7 million of them don't even know they have it. 90% of diabetes is caused by obesity or poor diet.
Now, there are other factors, like genetics, but remember I am talking about type 2 here, what used to be called adult onset diabetes until so many children starting getting it. Fifty years ago a pediatrician never saw a case of it, or rarely, today it is rampant. The cause? Simple sugars, soda, high fructose corn syrup. Junk.
My father got it in his forties because he got fat, so did his father. My dad lost the weight and controls it pretty well, but he looks like he is 80 and he is in his 60's, he finds it harder and harder to walk any distance. What science is now finding is that diabetes actually contributes to the first leading cause of death in America, heart disease.
I was moved by the doctors on the show, and the reporter for the NY Times that is running the 4 part story. I was shocked, and I was scared, not just for myself but for our children. The next morning I went to the American Diabetes Association for some more info.
I looked up the early (and often ignored) symptoms...
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Increased fatigue
- Blurry vision
I looked up what can happen to you when you get it...
- Kidney Disease
- Foot and Skin Complications
- Nureopathy and Nerve damage
I took the Diabetes Risk Test and got some interesting results. When I plug in the numbers (weight, height, age) and included exercise my risk threat came back a "6", some minor or medium risk. No big deal. Then I did it again with out exercise and my risk factor came back a giant glaring red "11". As the great Nigel Tufnel (of Spinal Tap fame) would say... "that's one more than 10, so it's better right?". Not.
With my weight being what it is, I MIGHT be able to hold off getting diabetes as long as I am active. Once I stop moving, I am a sitting duck to develop it. Of course I could take my weight loss more seriously...that old chestnut.
Beyond worrying about my own ass, something I do with ease, I worry about the future of our children's health in general. One of the doctors in Thursday's show, Dr. Richard Bernstein, swears that what we have here with this epidemic, particularly with children, is an addiction to simple carbohydrates, which very quickly, almost immediately upon touching your lips, turns into simple sugars. I have seen my kid raid the pantry, I have seen his choices, and yes, it looks like an addiction to me!
I am not sure if our country, or the rapidly industrializing countries of Asia, can ever put the genie ( access to junk food) back in the bottle, but I can see what is on the horizon if we don't try to contain it. Massive health care costs, misery and death. Perhaps this is why we see many American food manufactures starting to put whole grains into their cereals, pasta and snacks. Perhaps they see the writing on the wall and they do not want to get sued. One thing is clear, this is a huge, and often ignored, problem in our country. Ignored, that is, until you get it...and then it is too late, it ain't going away, the best you can do is manage it.
Hey, not trying to bum you out this weekend! Just giving you something to think about, look into and maybe take a little action on. If we tax payers can spend billions, even trillions, on weapons and war to prevent deaths that MIGHT occur by terrorism, maybe we can get the government to shell out another billion or two to get gym class back into all public schools and prevent the deaths that we KNOW will occur if we don't.
225,000 people died last year in America due to diabetes, that number is increasing every year, and a larger and larger portion of it is going to be our children. A very sobering, and very terrifying thought for me.