DIABETES: Cases Skyrocketed in the 1990s
The percentage of the American population suffering from diabetes rose dramatically in the 1990s, with a 33% increase nationwide and a 70% increase among people in their thirties, the AP/Wall Street Journal reports. A study published in the September issue of the journal Diabetes Care revealed a steady rise in diabetes cases between 1990 and 1998 and attributed it to a corresponding increase in obesity and sedentary behavior. Dr. Frank Vinicor, director of the CDC's diabetes division, called the rising incidence of diabetes "almost unheard of." Experts are blaming the nation's "general weight problem," which has been aggravated by "the proliferation of television channels and the rise of computers at home and at work." Vinicor said obesity in America is "not just a cosmetic issue anymore" (8/24).
A Public Health Crisis
Researchers warn that the surge in diabetes cases "will take a harsh toll in disability, death and medical expenses in decades to come" and predict that the numbers "will continue to snowball, because there is a delay between the development of obesity and the onset of diabetes," the New York Times reports. Vinicor said, "We're having enough trouble taking care of people with diabetes today. It's going to get considerably worse in the future." Costs associated with diabetes treatment in the United States are estimated at $98 billion a year. Type 2 diabetes, associated with weight gain and inactivity, accounts for 90-95% of diabetes cases and may result in serious complications including blindness, kidney failure and leg amputations, in addition to heart disease and stroke -- the two leading causes of death in the United States. Researchers said the sharp increase of diabetes among people in their 30s is particularly alarming, because the earlier in life people develop the disease, the more prone they are to complications. In the past, Type 2 diabetes typically developed in people over 45 years of age. Vinicor added, "Expensive as we think health care is today, with these chronic conditions coming on it's going to be very threatening to quality of life as well as cost issues. ... (inactivity and obesity should) be viewed as a serious public health issue ... we need to ensure that people are informed about healthy choices of foods, that when you build new homes there are sidewalks where people can walk and be active, that schools reinstate physical education and that cafeterias at schools offer healthy foods." Vinicor added that the statistics obtained through the study "are conservative," as they were gathered through a telephone survey of 150,000 households that "did not include people too poor to have telephones, who are among those with the highest rates of obesity and diabetes" (Grady, 8/24).