November 27, 2004

Diabetes: Nothing to Snicker At

"No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds - November!" maligned Thomas Hood (b. 1799), English poet and humorist. Too bad he didn't live in America where in November we celebrate Thanksgiving and American Diabetes Month. Celebrate diabetes month, you ask?

Statistics in 2002 indicated that 18.2 million U.S. citizens had diabetes (5.2 million undiagnosed), and folks age 20+ represented 1.3 million new cases diagnosed annually. In adults, diabetes rose a whopping 49% from 1990-2000. Four years ago, the sixth leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates was diabetes. Two years ago, the direct and indirect medical costs of diabetes in this country totaled $132 billion (yes, billion with a "b"). Diabetes complications include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous-system disease, amputations, dental disease, pregnancy complications, and biochemical imbalances that can cause acute life-threatening events.

As diabetes-related statistics have soared, those who suffer its ravages await answers. Some healthcare professionals delve into fresh possibilities for cures through unprecedented scientific experiments. Others in that community encourage diet and lifestyle changes for diabetes patients. Experts for every shade of diabetes instruct on the impact of the disease among children and families.

My own memories drift from those of childhood when my great- grandmother and my grandmother injected their insulin after breakfast to those of adulthood as my mother suffered late-onset diabetes at 50 and died of associated heart disease at 72. Her father was diagnosed at 70 with diabetes on what was only his second visit to a doctor. Her brother began injecting insulin in mid-life when his diabetes was discovered during preparation for surgery. Her aunt, now 90, confesses, despite her diabetes, "a sinful weakness for Snickers bars." (Me, too, but "sinful"?)

So, again you ask: celebrate? Yes, let's! Celebrate because diabetes now ranks as the seventh leading cause of death in this country. Celebrate because rampant American obesity is now linked directly to type 2 diabetes. Celebrate because the 15% surge in childhood type 2 diabetes in the past 14 years has demanded a solution from healthcare professionals like Nurse Bonnie sechrist at Health Management Corp. who developed an informational presentation, "Who's Helping the Children?"

Celebrate because Stanford's Dr. Seung Kim spends his time examining teeny fruit-fly brain cells, which act like a miniature pancreas. Their combo of insulin and a glucagonlike hormone keeps blood sugar within normal range - and diabetes drug discovery may follow. Celebrate because type 1 diabetes may be reduced or prevented through the use of an anti-inflammatory drug, lisofylline, according to Dr. Zandong Yang's research at the University of Virginia Health System.

Yes, celebrate because there is today a global dedication to combat this disease. Diabetes has long robbed its victims of health and families of hope. The random list (left) represents only a few diabetes organizations and merely hints at the scope of informative, action-oriented programs designed to renew hope.

November offers us time for great thanksgiving for the successful progress recognized by the celebration of American Diabetes Month.

And as you and your families prepare for your November 25th Thanksgivingfeast, all of us at MLO send our best wishes for a blessed season.

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Copyright Nelson Publishing Nov 2004