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ind Over Matter

Diabetes on the Rise: A Wakeup Call to Change Your Lifestyle!

© Barry Bittman MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Over Matter by Barry Bittman MD. View all columns in series
The data is in and the news is nothing short of alarming! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a statistic that’s potentially far more frightening than the threat of AIDS in our nation. According to the Atlanta-based team of researchers, while Diabetes increased 33% nationwide from 1990 to 1998, it rose 70% among individuals aged 30-39!

Diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the US with more than 800,000 new cases each year, is rapidly become a household word. Increased risk of death is not the only reason. For when one factors in the increased risk of blindness, heart attacks, kidney failure and nerve involvement, only then can we appreciate the wide impact of a disease (Type II) that’s potentially preventable.

Let's explore the fundamental differences between the two principle types of Diabetes. Type I Diabetics typically experience the disease in childhood due to the failure of specific pancreatic cells to produce insulin, a hormone needed to drive glucose into cells. Type II Diabetics (almost 16 million in our nation) tend to develop the disease later in life. They typically have sufficient or even elevated levels of insulin, yet their insulin receptors do not function adequately to meet their needs.

While genetic components certainly exist, the principle risk factors for Type II Diabetes are preventable. These include obesity and diminished physical activity.

Beginning with weight, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider overweight as a BMI (Body Mass Index) from 25 to 29.9, and obesity as a BMI of 30 or more.

Based on the latest statistics, more than half of U.S. adults are overweight. According to the NIH, this includes 54.9% of U.S. adults (97.1 million) æ 50% of women and 59% of men. Of greater concern is the fact that 22.3% of U.S. adults (39.8 million) are obeseæ 25 % of women and 19.5% of men. Unfortunately, these numbers have risen (from 1960 to 1994, the prevalence of obesity increased from 13.4 to 22.3%) and are continuing to rise (from 1991 to 1998, obesity increased in every state of the United States in both genders).

The weight statistics for Diabetics aren't surprising. Among individuals with Type II Diabetes, 67 percent have a BMI equal to or greater than 27, and 46 percent have a BMI in the "obese" zone.

You can calculate your BMI using the following formula:

  1. multiply your weight in pounds by 704.5
  2. then divide the result by your height in inches
  3. then divide the result by your height in inches a second time

On a cautionary note, please realize that while BMI is considered a reasonable tool, it is not as accurate as most people would like to believe. Another important factor that must be considered is body fat percentage. Athletes with extensive muscular development and relatively low body fat can have high BMIs, while relatively thin people may have more body fat than one might expect. A healthy body fat percentage range (ages 20 and older) is 21-35% for women and 8-24% for men. Body fat percentage can be estimated using standard calipers or more precisely measured with bioimpedance instruments that pass a safe low electrical current through the body. These estimates can be performed by your physician or nutritionist.

Striving to maintain a healthy body weight and fat percentage can greatly help prevent Diabetes, a leading cause of disability and death. Coupled with proper exercise, we have the potential to greatly enhance our capacity for disease prevention.

And finally, just because you develop Type II Diabetes doesn't mean that you're condemned to a death sentence. You can still make a difference and potentially eliminate your need for medication. Always consult your doctor and ask to be enrolled in a Diabetes education class that can help you create a framework for optimizing your nutrition, exercise and ability to de-stress yourself (yes - stress can worsen blood sugar levels).

It's time we became part of the solution rather than the problem. Taking an active role in our own well-being is an effective strategy for improving quality of life and longevity. Consider recreating a healthy lifestyle today. Your self-care investment of time and effort is likely to become your most potent elixir - Mind Over Matter!

© 2000 Barry Bittman, MD all rights reserved

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About The Author
Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, award-winning producer/director and inventor. As CEO and Medical Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, a comprehensive, interdisciplinary outpatient medical facility in Meadville, PA., Dr. Bittman has pioneered a new paradigm for treating the “whole person.” Based upon extensive......more
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