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Diabetes Incidence in the United States

written by: Bobby Mathew • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/12/2010

The incidence of diabetes in the US is alarming, with over 23 million children and adults now suffering from the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Although genetics plays the leading role in type 1 diabetes, obesity and lack of exercise causes the bulk of type 2 diabetes.

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    Introduction

    The incidence of diabetes in the US has increased dramatically over the last decade. The prevalence of type 2 Diabetes is closely associated with obesity, excess caloric intake, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. In this article we'll discuss why and how such large numbers of Americans contract this disease than their foreign counterparts.

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    Prevalence of Diabetes

    The National Diabetes Fact Sheet put out by the American Diabetes Association states that a total of 23.6 million children and adults, or 7.8 percent of the population, had diabetes in the United States in 2007. It is estimated that an additional 5.7 million people are undiagnosed, and roughly 57 million people are in the pre-diabetic stage. People with prediabetes may be on their way to acquiring diabetes if they do not make appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes. Among people aged 20 or older, 1.6 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year.

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    Causes of Diabetes (Type 1)

    Type 1 Diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases of diabetes in the United States. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, although the exact cause is unknown. The medical community and researchers believe that it is a combination of hereditary and environmental factors that stimulate the body's immune system to kill its own insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. Unlike type 2 diabetes, this form of the disease is not associated with obesity and cannot be as easily controlled with diet and exercise or lifestyle changes. Find out more about Type 1 Diabetes.

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    Causes of Diabetes (Type 2)

    Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity, excess caloric intake, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. The results from the 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that nearly one in three Americans are obese, with the average American roughly 23 pounds above his or her ideal body weight. Excess fat, especially around the midsection, interferes with the body's ability to use insulin effectively.

    Americans are eating more calories than ever before, and many of the calories they consume are comprised of unhealthy foods. The average American male above the age of 18 needs about 2,300 calories per day, but most Americans eat well over that amount. Much of the excess calories they eat come from foods high in trans fasts, saturated fats, and sugar. Trans fats and saturated fats, interfere with the body's ability to use insulin.

    At the 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, the American Heart Association reported that sugary beverages, including soda and sports drinks, contributed to over 100,000 new cases of diabetes over the last decade. Nearly 52 percent of adolescent boys and 32 percent of adolescent girls are drinking at least 3 servings of soda a day by the age of 14.

    Sedentary lifestyle is also a cause of type 2 diabetes. Nearly 60 percent of Americans do not get enough physical activity to obtain necessary health benefits. One of the obvious health benefits of adding physical activity into the daily routine is the maintenance of blood sugar levels in diabetics, and pre-diabetics.

    People with family memebers that have type 2 diabetes may be predisposed to the condition as well. Every year, close to 80 percent of individuals diagnosed with diabetes have at least one family member that has the disease as well. Whether the disease has a genetic component, or whether unhealthy lifestyle factors are passed down, remains unclear.

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    Why America?

    Why is the incidence of diabetes in the US much higher than in other countries? The truth is, other countries are on their way to where the United States is because of westernization. What specific aspect of western society, especially American society, contributes to things like diabetes?

    Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are related to technological advancements in society. More people have access to video games and computers, whereas without them, they may have participated in physical activities for leisure. Playing basketball or football is being replaced by Playstation 3 or the newest game on PC. Even in the workplace, computers allow people to sit in one place for long hours. Other countries that lack these types of technologies are more apt to work with their bodies in the workplace, and engage more in physical activity as a means of leisure.

    Dietary habits of Americans are also different from people in other countries. Culture is to blame for this, as we have become a country that likes to super-size everything. Though the surge in obesity has reached a plateau, only time will tell what will happen to America if we do not start to eat less and exercise more.

    There are ways to prevent type 2 diabetes if a healthy lifestyle and diet is followed.


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