Diabetes − you’ve probably heard the term many times throughout your life. Perhaps you know somebody who has it, or maybe you suffer from it yourself. You probably also know that it is a disease that causes high levels of sugar in the body. What you may not know, however, is that diabetes affects 1 in 4 people in the U.S. Furthermore, 1 in 3 people suffer from a condition called pre-diabetes − higher than normal levels of sugar in the blood − but they just don’t know it yet. Experts predict that by 2030, the number of people in the world with the disease will double. Diabetes is a serious, life-threatening condition and, currently, no cure exists. However, with early detection and treatment, it is manageable.

The complications caused by diabetes are frightening, to say the least. According to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44% of new cases in 2008. Heart disease was noted in 68% of diabetes-related deaths, most likely due to high blood pressure in those with the disease. Diabetes is now the leading cause of blindness in the world among adults aged 20−74 years. Diabetes-related neuropathy can lead to amputation of the feet and, in severe cases, the legs. Think those stats are distressing? This one may shock you − 65% of people who have a leg amputated in the U.S. do so because of diabetes. The costs due to diabetes-related complications are staggering as well; $174 billion in 2007, and that number will only continue to rise so long as people do not step up and join the fight against this disease.

How can you take a stand against diabetes? Raising awareness is an outstanding way to educate people about this condition. Everyone should understand the risk factors of diabetes. Poor diet, high blood pressure, low activity levels, and impaired glucose tolerance are just a few of them. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone over the age of 45 years should have their blood glucose tested at least once every year; if you have any risk factors, you should get tested at least once a year regardless of your age. Diet and exercise are the main components of the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which recommends exercising daily and staying away from sugary foods and meals loaded with carbohydrates.

For those who already have the disease, there are medications on the market today (and more in the pipeline) that can be used, in addition to diet and exercise, to ensure proper management. Among this group of people it is important to raise awareness of the consequences of missing doses of medication, which can lead to the devastating complications highlighted above.

So, to mark World Diabetes Day on 14th November, join us in raising awareness of this disease. Together we can work to stop the progression of diabetes in our loved ones and in the process, fuel efforts to create a cure that will one day rid the world of what many claim to be one of the first diseases ever described by mankind.

Sam Hossaini