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Facts About Diabetes

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Diabetes is becoming a national crisis. An estimated 30.3 million Americans currently have the disease and an additional 84 million have what is known as prediabetes. Many of those who have diabetes and prediabetes are not even aware they have the condition until they develop complications.

"There really is an awareness problem," said Robin Marcus, PhD, Chief Wellness Officer for University of Utah Health. "More people need to know about the risks and how they can mitigate them by making healthy lifestyle choices."

There are two primary types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not make insulin due to an immune response in the pancreas. Patients with this type of diabetes have to take insulin daily.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body does not make enough insulin, or does not efficiently use the insulin it does make. This type of diabetes is treated with medication in addition to changes in diet and exercise. "This is the most common type of diabetes," said Marcus. "And it is often brought on or made worse by lifestyle factors like obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle."

Neither type of diabetes is curable, so prevention is the best medicine. Since Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented the focus is now on preventing Type 2. University of Utah Health is working to provide diabetes education outreach aimed at both adults and children. "One in four children is now obese in the United States," said Marcus. "We need to start teaching healthy habits at a young age if we want to reverse this trend and reduce their risk of developing diabetes."

Education is just one part of the effort to combat diabetes. Research is an important part as well. Why are some people more likely to develop diabetes? What is the genetic component? What is the best way to manage diabetes? These are a few of the questions asked by research teams. "We also have researchers looking into new drugs that could manage diabetes better than current insulin models," said Marcus. "We want to know if there are other ways to lower blood sugar."

Diabetes is a disease that will touch almost all of us. We must work together to understand it, prevent it, and to combat it. In doing so, we can reduce the number of people who suffer from diabetes-related blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, or other complications. "It's about improving not only the length of life, but the quality as well," Marcus said.