World Diabetes Day 2017: What you need to know


We all know someone, or know someone’s someone who suffers from diabetes.

And it’s no surprise: Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States; over 30 million people have it, and roughly 7.2 million of them are undiagnosed. 21.8 million have type 2 diabetes specifically (American Diabetes Association, 2015 statistics).

These are some alarming stats. And, unfortunately, they only get worse: The most recent estimation of costs associated with diabetes?

“…total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity… a 41% increase from 2007.”

–from the study Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2012 (updated research/statistics to come).

And current costs are even higher. That’s 245 new Vikings stadiums, if anyone’s counting.

So what can we do to stop the rise of diabetes?

Other than work to improve our own lives through healthy lifestyle behaviors like eating and exercise, we can also work to bring awareness to others. We need to understand diabetes, and the complications that arise from the disease.

Which is exactly what World Diabetes Day is all about.

Tuesday, November 14th is Diabetes Day on a global scale, hosted in conjunction with the International Diabetes Federation and the United Nations. While many of us may have a basic understanding of diabetes, it’s hard to stay properly informed on the various types, pathophysiology, and treatments.

Here are a few things you should know:

The vast majority of diabetes can be categorized into two broad categories: type 1 and type 2. In type 1, the body does not produce insulin (a hormone responsible for decreasing circulating blood glucose), and in type 2, the body’s insulin production becomes less sensitive and loses it’s effect to lower blood glucose over time. Ultimately, both result in hyperglycemia, an excess of blood glucose circulating throughout the body.

Chronic hyperglycemia over time is associated with a slew of long-term damage and dysfunction and failure of various organs, most notably the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Therefore, if you have diabetes, it’s important to stay up to date on exams, daily feet inspections, and most importantly, control of your diabetes through lifestyle, and if necessary, medications.

Other forms of diabetes are less common, but also worth exploring.

Type 2, as we mentioned above, affects over 20 million Americans and is most the most common form of diabetes. And, as it can be prevented, there is often more emphasis on this particular category. Risk factors of type 2 diabetes include, but are not limited to:

  • BMI ≥25 kg/m^2 (overweight/obese: your body weight is 20% higher than it should be)
  • First-degree relative with diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • History of cardiovascular disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • HDL<35 mg/dL and/or triglycerides >250 mg/dL
  • Ethnicity (Native American, African American, Latino, Asian American, and Pacific Islander more at risk)

One may want to consider screening for diabetes in asymptomatic patients (patients who are showing any symptoms) if they are overweight or obese, and one or more of the risk factors posted above are present. Also, if they are over the age of 45, with 3-year intervals thereafter.

Discovering diabetes early is not only better for one’s health long-term, but it will certainly help reduce the cost of medical care overall. People with diabetes spend 2.3 times more in medical bills, and that number will continue to rise, especially with the most recent increase cost of insulin, ~$50 a vial in 2002 to nearly $400 in 2017.

If you are cash pay (no insurance to cover you) in the state of Minnesota, the cost can be as high as $577 (a vial 5x the concentration is also available for $1388). Unfortunately, those with type 1 diabetes require insulin in order to live and cannot avoid the cost, but with type 2, it’s only required when diet, lifestyle and oral medications aren’t enough.

Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

Oral medications are the second line of treatment when diet and exercise are not enough to control blood sugars for those with type 2 diabetes. They range from $5 (60 pills of Metformin, the most common/first line of defense) to $627 (1 injection pen of Byetta) for cash pay. Each medications has varying types of action, side effects and contraindications, and are often used in combination with one another.

This article isn’t meant to scare people, simply to inform. The hope is that you will take action and participate this Tuesday by helping increase awareness. How? You too can take action (<–click the link), and/or contact your senators and tell congress to support diabetes programs and research.

Maybe, in the future, we won’t all know someone, or someone’s someone, who suffers from diabetes.

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