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The Diabetes Epidemic Hits Home

By David Mendosa

Last Update: September 8, 2001

Even if you don't have diabetes yourself, the chances are that a family member or a neighbor does. The proportion of American adults with diabetes increased from 4.9 percent in 1990 to 6.9 percent in 1999, according to a new government survey.

This means about 30 people living here in Rolling Green Estates have diabetes, assuming an average of three people per each of our 145 homes. But the only people I know living here who have diabetes live in my house.

Treatment of type 2 diabetes depends on you—not your doctor.

We are the lucky ones.

How could that be lucky? Because we know that we have diabetes and can control it. While diabetes can't be cured, it can be controlled. The government estimates that one-third of all Americans with diabetes don't know that they have it. That translates to 10 residents of Rolling Green Estates who haven't yet got that diagnosis from their doctors.

Most people manage to live with diabetes for eight years before a doctor gives them the news. Either they don't have the typical symptoms of diabetes or they ignore them.

The symptoms include feeling tired or ill, frequent urination (especially at night), unusual thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slow healing of sores. These symptoms develop slowly for the most common form of diabetes, which we now call type 2. About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have it. This form of diabetes usually develops in adults over the age of 40 and is most common among adults over age 55. About 80 percent of them are overweight.

Having diabetes means that your body doesn't do a good job of using the carbohydrate you eat. It needs to be broken down into a simple sugar called glucose, the body's main fuel source.

But for that glucose to get into your cells it needs insulin, which is a hormone that the beta cells in your pancreas produce. The pancreases of people who have diabetes either produce little or no insulin or the body does not respond to the insulin that is produced. So glucose builds up in the blood and is wasted. Even worse, all that glucose running around in your blood stream is responsible for the typical complications of diabetes—diseases of the heart, eye, kidneys, nerves, and other organs.

More than any other disease, the treatment of type 2 diabetes depends on the individual rather than the doctor. That's because the most important treatments are weight loss and exercise. If that's not enough, you will need to take pills or insulin shots to control your blood glucose.

I take pills. When my doctor diagnosed diabetes in February 1994, I was working as a freelance contributing editor of a business magazine. But I found that diabetes was so interesting that soon I was writing only about diabetes.

That continues to be the way I make my living. But I also have a Web site that is my hobby. It is packed full of information about diabetes. The address is .

Diabetes so far has been good to me. I haven't had any of the terrible complications of the disease.

If you want to know more about diabetes, feel free to call or write me. My home-office phone is 688-5300 and my email address is

This article originally appeared in September 2001 issue of the Rolling Green Estates Improvement Association Newsletter, Aptos, California.

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