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Diabetes Assoc Logo25.8 million Americans have diabetes.  More than 90% of those diagnosed with diabetes have the Type 2 variety.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35% of the adult population are prediabetic, the precursor to Type 2 diabetes, and are at high risk of developing the disease.  That means 79 million Americans are on their way to Type 2 diabetes.  In 2011, 1.9 million adults received a new diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.

In the most recent comprehensive survey of death certificates, Type 2 diabetes was listed as the underlying cause or contributing factor in 231,404 deaths.  It is the leading cause of blindness among adults age 20-74 years of age.  Your risk of heart disease and stroke is two to four times greater if you have diabetes.  Hypertension or high blood pressure is present in 65% of the diabetic population.  The CDC statistics in 2008 listed diabetes as the cause of kidney failure in 44% of the cases.

70% of the diabetic population will develop some degree of nerve damage.  The damage to the nerves is called neuropathy.  Diabetic neuropathy leads to weakness, sensory loss, and balance deficits.  I have been treating patients in physical therapy since 1984, and diabetic neuropathy problems are far more frequent and severe.

If the current trends continue, more than 50% of Americans will have Type 2 diabetes by 2020.  According to the United Health Center for Health Reform and Modernization, we are on track to spend 10% of our total health care dollars on diabetes care by the end of this decade.  

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through lifestyle and behavior changes.  Weight loss, exercise, and consistent medical care can alter the impact of diabetes on your health.  Reducing bodyweight by 7% is enough to improve blood sugar levels and reduce the health implications from Type 2 diabetes.  Walking, biking, or lifting some weights every day is the prescribed minimally effective dose to improve insulin sensitivity.  I know many gym members that have been able to control or abolish their Type 2 diabetes with a commitment to exercise, better eating habits, and the maintenance of a reasonable bodyweight.  

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS