Diabetes if the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Deaths due to cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease are declining, but those of diabetes have “increased by about 30% in the past 12 years, and life expectancy for persons with diabetes is approximately 15 years less than those who do not have diabetes” (Olefsky).
Possible complications of diabetes include blindness, kidney failure, lower-extremity amputations, and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, end-state renal disease, amputation, heart disease, and strokes.
Type 1 diabetes is seen in children and young adults and is a result of autoimmune destruction of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% to 95% of diabetes patients, and is increasing in frequency.
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
Environmental risk factors include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and aging. However there is also a genetic component to the disease, as “responsible genes have been identified in selected subtypes of this disease” (Olefsky). Such genes are related to food intake and energy expenditure.
Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
An article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) endorses the following practices for preventative care: annual dilated eye exam, an annual foot exam, self-monitoring of blood glucose, and glycemic control.
The national health objectives for 2010 include increasing the occurrence of these exams for persons with diabetes. According to JAMA, there are “substantial gaps” between current levels of care practices and the 2010 targets.
The University of California’s Dr. Olefsky provides an overview of diabetes research on the horizon. According to him, “identification of the genetic components of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is the most important area of research because elucidation of the diabetes genes will influence all efforts toward a mechanistic understanding of the disease, its complications, and its treatment, cure, and prevention.”
When the blood sugar levels of people with diabetes are controlled, complications are reduced and further disease processes are slowed. This fact is encouraging, and also a focus of clinical and research efforts to design new therapies.
The Human Genome Project, gene identification, and new technologies like DNA gene chips and genetic manipulation will provide for incredible advances in treatment and prevention of diabetes.