About 30.3 million Americans, 9.4% of the population, have diabetes. 7.2 million of those people remain undiagnosed which means blood sugar is not being controlled. Almost 3 times that number of 30 million have prediabetes. So doing the math – over 100 million people in the US have diabetes or prediabetes. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US. However, that is probably grossly underestimated, as diabetic complications such as heart disease, the diabetes is not reported on the death certificate. Studies have found about 35% to 40% of people with diabetes who died had diabetes listed anywhere on the death certificate. Cause of death – cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis). Diabetics are more likely to have heart disease or stroke & nerve damage (neuropathy). Diabetes doubles the risk of liver, pancreas, and endometrial cancer. It increases the risk of colorectal, breast, and bladder cancer by 20% to 50%. Certain forms of arthritis may be more common in people with certain types of diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes have higher risks of developing osteoarthritis and gout. Diabetes causes musculoskeletal changes that lead to symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness; swelling; nodules under the skin, particularly in the fingers. Tight, thickened skin, trigger finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, painful shoulders, and severely affected feet – diabetics are all at a higher risk level for all of these. After having had diabetes for several years, joint damage – called diabetic arthropathy – can occur.
I always think if the image of an octopus thinking of diabetes. The head/body of the octopus is the diabetes – and the 8 far reaching arms are the many complications of diabetes. The arms are strong, and they are “suckered” all the way along. Those suckers, yes that us what they are called, can suck the life out of you – just like the many complications of diabetes.
Some of the more common complications of diabetes include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Nerve damage (neuropathy) including erectile dysfunction
- Kidney damage (nephropathy)
- Eye damage (retinopathy)
- Foot damage
- Skin conditions
- Hearing impairment
- Alzheimer’s disease
- sleep apnea… and here we have yet another vicious circle of complication – sleep apnea is very highly associated with heart disease, stroke…
Now – add oxidative stress to the equation…
Oxidative stress – As discussed in many of my articles – is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage, DNA damage. Oxidative stress occurs naturally as a product of cellular tasks, and is dramatically compounded by the daily decisions we make and the hundreds of daily exposures we encounter, and plays a vast role in the disease and aging process. Oxidative stress, if not consciously controlled, leads to chronic inflammation.
Oxidative stress plays a pivotal role in the development of diabetes complications, both microvascular and cardiovascular. The abnormal metabolic functioning of a diabetic causes mitochondrial superoxide overproduction (oxidative stress from the cells) in cells of both large and small vessels, and also in the myocardium, heart muscle tissue.
The good news: Yes diabetes would be considered an epidemic if it were contagious.
Type 2 diabetes is thought to be 90% preventable. Yes, very frequently multiple people in a family have diabetes. However, what is usually passed in is poor lifestyle choices, not “diabetic genes.”
Oxidative stress – yes it is unavoidable – again by our own cellular functions and environmental choices and exposures. However, with lifestyle modifications, nutrition, proven supplementation – we can dramatically reduce oxidative stress, slow the aging process, reduce risk of chronic illness and yes – reduce further complications of diabetes.