One of the most prevalent and rapidly-increasing diseases around the world — diabetes — is also one of the most preventable. Almost 380 million people have diabetes worldwide, and the World Health Organization predicts it will be the seventh leading cause of death in the world by 2030. Already, diabetes kills someone every six seconds — a surprising statistic for a disease that elicits a significantly lower uproar than cancer or terrorism. Yet its effects are harmful, widespread and unfortunately increasing.
Anyone entering the field of public health knows many challenges exist when it comes to bettering the health and wellness of a society, but those challenges posed by diabetes are arguably some of the most frustrating. Common knowledge, medical literature and a mountain of research suggest that simply exercising, maintaining a normal weight and avoiding tobacco can prevent most instances Type 2 diabetes. Why are diabetes diagnoses and complications continuing to climb?
Lack of Awareness and Education
More than 80 percent of all diabetes deaths occur in low- to middle-income countries, and in many of these places people still don’t have adequate education to know how to prevent the disease or treat it. The World Health Organization has made diabetes prevention a top priority, and officials are increasing efforts to educate people. Here are some of the efforts WHO will make in the coming years:
Provide more people with guidelines for effective diabetes prevention.
Develop norms for diagnosis and treatment.
Continue to build awareness of the disease around the world.
Partner with the International Diabetes Federation to educate and provide ongoing surveillance of the disease worldwide.
The Continued Rise in Obesity
The rise in diabetes is directly tied to the rising rate of obesity in the United States and around the world. Since the 1970s, obesity rates have more than doubled due largely to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the increased stress of modern life and unhealthy diets. Combating obesity requires only a handful of changes with far-reaching positive benefits if undertaken on a daily basis. To get to or maintain a healthy weight:
Get 30 minutes of exercise daily.
Eat little or no processed foods.
Keep your diet primarily plant and whole-food based.
Avoid empty calories like sodas and candy.
The Industrial Revolution and the technological shift of the past 30 years have markedly changed the way human beings spend their time. Few people have a job requiring any amount of physical activity, and the ubiquity of cars and other means of transport have removed the convenience of built-in daily exercise as part of normal day-to-day activity. In order to prevent diabetes people need to choose a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. Without exercise, obesity rates, heart disease, diabetes and other preventable diseases will continue to climb and wreak havoc on health, the economy and quality of life.
Easy Diets are Lousy Diets
The easiest meals are almost always the ones that are the most harmful to your health. Besides having less nutritional value, fast food and prepackaged food is high in calories, salt, preservatives, sugar and additives; these foods contribute to diabetes and other health woes. While it may seem like you don’t have time to make healthy food choices, not doing so will certainly cost you more time in the long run through illness and premature death. Eat better by cooking more of your own food at home, and when you do go out to eat choose a restaurant that utilizes a farm to table model so you know the food will be fresh, nutritious, delicious and good for you.
Lack of Sunlight
Another unfortunate by-product of the modern world is most people are vitamin D deficient. Because so many of us spend all day indoors we don’t get enough sunlight, and sunshine on skin is the primary way human beings get vitamin D. Because people with low levels of Vitamin D are more likely to develop diabetes, getting outside is an important part of being healthy and diabetes-free.
Type 2 Diabetes is a preventable disease public health officials are working to defeat. While lifestyle changes are essential to diabetes prevention, many people still lack the education, support and will power necessary to overcome a diabetic fate. As WHO and other organizations seek to further the cause of health, hopefully the efforts of the next few years will see a reversal in diabetes diagnoses, complications and untimely death.