SAN GABRIEL -- Twenty-four million Americans have diabetes. That's a 61% increase since 1990, a 3 million increase since 2006. 57 million Americans have "pre-diabetes" that may lead to the disease. Worst of all, 6.2 million people don't know they have it. When non diabetics eat, sugar goes into the blood stimulating the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin helps the sugar move out of the blood and into the cells where it's used for energy. Type one diabetes occurs when the body no longer makes insulin and sugar cannot get into the cell; it builds up in the blood, causing, weakness, increased thirst, and increased urination. Without treatment brain cells don't receive the sugar they need and patients can lose consciousness. Other sugar-starved cells start to burn fat, leading to an acid build up that can quickly lead to death. Over time, high blood sugars may damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and lead to other organ damage.
The risks of diabetes may be 2-4 times higher among African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. People in these ethnic groups may need frequent tests to detect and treat diabetes. Since the disease can strike anyone of any age or any ethnic group without warning, we all need to check with our doctors to see which tests are right for us and when.
Type two diabetes used to be called "adult onset diabetes" but it has marched on in children due to the development of obesity. There has been a 10 fold increase in Type two diabetes in the last decade. But there is good news. Research shows that some Type two diabetics, may be able to stop taking medicine altogether if they can just lose weight.
Choosing a healthy lifestyle path can save your life. The diabetes epidemic in San Gabriel is real; but the future is bright. If you or someone you know has diabetes, new tests and treatments can help to live a long and healthy life.
Dr. Bruce Hensel is an Emmy Award-winning medical, health and science reporter who is an advisor to CareMore Health Plan in San Gabriel.