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Kentucky Health News
Diabetes may be responsible for nearly four times as many American deaths as reported on death certificates, which would move diabetes from the seventh-leading cause of death to the third, according to a recent study. Kentucky has the 12th highest diabetes death rate in the nation.
“We argue diabetes is responsible for 12 percent of deaths in the U.S., rather than [the] 3.3 percent that death certificates indicate,” lead study author Andrew Stokes of the Boston University School of Public Health, told Arlene Karidis of The Washington Post.
Researchers say this discrepancy occurs because diabetes is often the main underlying cause of death, but is not mentioned on the death certificate. For example, the death certificate may list heart disease as the cause of death, but doesn't note that the heart disease was caused by diabetes.
The study, published in the online journal PLOS One, analyzed findings from two large national surveys, one that provided levels of A1C, a test that shows average blood sugar over two to three months, and another that provided self-reported diabetes information. Researchers compared the death rates of the diabetics in the surveys to information on their death certificates.
While the study concluded that 12 percent of deaths were caused by diabetes, "by far the highest proportion of deaths attributable to diabetes, 19.4 percent, occurred among obese people, compared to only 8.8 percent among the non-obese." It also found that diabetics had a 90 percent higher death rate over a five-year period than non-diabetics, accounting for other factors.
|Adult diabetes rates in Kentucky, 2013-15, ranging from 8 to 22 percent|
“These findings point to an urgent need for strategies to prevent diabetes in the general population. For those already affected, they highlight the importance of timely diagnosis and aggressive management to prevent complications, such as coronary heart disease, stroke and lower-extremity amputations,” Stokes told Karidis. He added that a better understanding of the actual number of deaths caused by diabetes would improve "messaging, funding and policy decisions, such as taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages and sue of subsidies to make healthy foods more accessible."
|Harvard Health Publications|
Diabetics either have Type 1 diabetes, in which the body doesn't make any insulin, or Type 2, in which the body has difficulty producing and using insulin. Insulin allows a person's body to use sugar that is found in food for energy, or to store it for later. It helps keep blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low.
Type I cannot be prevented, but Type II, which is more common, can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly.
Early symptoms of Type II diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, feelings of unusual hunger, dry mouth and weight gain or loss, Medicine Net reports in a slideshow article. WebMD reports the same symptoms for Type I diabetes.
Other symptoms include headaches, fatigue and blurred vision, frequent yeast infections or urinary tract infections, itchy skin, or an infection or sore that takes a long time to heal. Vaginal dryness in women and impotence in men are also complications that can arise from Type II diabetes.
Medicine Net notes that smoking, being overweight or obese, lack of exercise, consuming a diet that is high in processed meat, fat, sweets and red meats and high cholesterol increases a person's risk of Type II diabetes, as does women who had gestational diabetes in pregnancy and people with a family history of the disease.
In addition to working with a health care provider to create a healthy eating plan, it's also important for diabetics to exercise because this helps to lower blood glucose levels, and lowers the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, both common risks of diabetes.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some tips for diabetics to "get moving and keep going," including:
- First, check with you doctor before starting a new or more difficult activity.
- Start slow and build up gradually; start with 10 minutes of walking and build up to 30.
- Results are often immediate. Check your blood sugar before and after the walk.
- Find an activity you enjoy.
- Walking and dancing cost nothing.
- Squeeze activity into the day; take the stairs, play with the kids, move during commercials.
- Make a plan; prepare for exercise the night before, put it on the calendar.
- Make a specific goal. For example, I am going to walk a mile every day for a month.
- Work out with a partner.
- Don't go more than two days in a row without being active.
- Do it for the T-shirt: Sign up for a 5K run/walk and train for it.