When an entire day is dedicated to a cause, we generally think of it as a celebratory event. However, when the World Health Organization claims a day to recognize a cause, it is to alert us that we have a significant worldwide health issue. So along with World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Hepatitis Day and World AIDS Day, we now have World Diabetes Day on November 14.
It is understandable to have missed it, given the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris that have occurred. My hope is that there is still time to consider World Diabetes Day — not as a story that has passed, but one that remains before us. There is substantial reason to take the diabetes epidemic seriously.
Diabetes is a disease that affects more than 350 million people in the world. According to the International Diabetes Federation, somewhere in the world, an adult dies from diabetes every six seconds — a frequency greater than the mortality rate of HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. In 2012 alone, diabetes was the direct cause of nearly 1.5 million deaths. The latest statistics from the 2015 Diabetes Atlas show the disease is on the rise.
The disease's impact on the economy is equally as staggering. The International Diabetes Federation predicts that diabetes will cost the world $1 trillion by 2040.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin — a hormone that regulates blood sugar, which in turn gives us the energy we need to live. It also occurs when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces to help metabolize the sugar that is gathered from the food we eat.
Diabetes comes in two forms — Type 1 and Type 2. People with Type 1 diabetes typically cannot produce any insulin for themselves, and therefore require insulin injections for survival. People with Type 2 diabetes produce their own insulin, but usually not enough, or they are unable to use it properly. Type 2 comprises about 90 percent of all cases and those diagnosed with it are typically overweight and sedentary.
Over time, high blood sugars can wreak havoc on every major organ in the body — causing heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, impotence and infections that can lead to amputations.
The important news related to this problem is that when properly treated, the impact of diabetes can be minimized. It is manageable. It is also preventable. People simply need to learn how to minimize their risk of getting it, as well as how to detect and treat it. It's all about keeping your blood sugar under control.
Of course, that requires scrapping an inactive lifestyle for a healthier one that includes physical activity and a healthy diet. This is not as easy as it sounds, even in an advanced country like our own. The American Diabetes Association recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise like brisk walking, tennis or hiking. They also recommend some type of strength training, twice per week. This is not happening. A new report from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention found that between 2011 and 2014, an estimated 36.5 percent of Americans ages 20 and older had a body mass index over the threshold for obesity. The report also revealed that the older Americans got, the more likely they were to become obese.
We are hardly alone among developed countries facing this problem. Every day in Australia, 280 people are diagnosed with diabetes. According to Diabetes Australia, an estimated one-in-four of all hospital beds in Australia are occupied by people with diabetes or a diabetes-related complication. It's the leading cause of blindness in working aged adults in Australia, as well as a leading cause of kidney failure, which leads to dialysis.
The situation appears to be even worse with our neighbors to the south. In Mexico, more than 70 percent of citizens are overweight or obese. Of the 14 percent of Mexican adults now suffering from diabetes, at least half are not aware they have the disease. According to Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, diabetes prevalence has doubled every six to 10 years.
According to a recent "NewsHour" report, in the United States and Canada, more than half the population with diabetes has adequate control of the disease. In contrast, only 25 percent of those in Mexico receive proper care.
To combat this crisis, three years ago a chain of clinics called Clinicas del Azucar, or "Sugar Clinics," were established to serve as one-stop destinations where people could see a doctor or nutritionist. They could even pick up a pair of shoes or a healthy snack. The hope is that this enterprise will expand to 200 outlets by 2020.
To help confront the worldwide diabetes epidemic, the World Health Organization endorses a 10 percent cap on daily sugar intake. For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recently imposed a daily cap on sugar. Nearly half of the added sugar consumed in the United States comes from sweetened drinks. In Mexico, the problem of sweetened drinks appears to be even more extreme.
According to the "NewsHour" report, Mexicans are far and away the biggest consumers of Coca-Cola. On average, it is reported that Mexicans consume 43 gallons of Coke products per year. In this country, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 140 calories and roughly 10 teaspoons of sugar. It's estimated that it takes three miles of walking to offset that one can of Coke.
Mexico has much work ahead — as do we.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.