Diabetes: The Epidemic of the 21st Century

Wednesday, 09. December 2015

Diabetes: The Epidemic of the 21st Century

Type 2 diabetes is steadily on the rise. Alone in the EU, almost 10 percent of the population suffers from this disease. The causes usually stem from poor lifestyle choices.

Today, twice as many people suffer from diabetes as did 15 years ago. The disease has now become a major problem, with the number of cases growing by alarming proportions.

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease of which there are two types. In Type 1, the pancreas produces no insulin. Insulin must then be artificially produced and ingested. In 90 percent of cases, however, people suffer from Type 2 diabetes. One characteristic of this disease is high blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes develops from a lack of utilization of insulin.

Interestingly, diabetes is spreading in a time during which the medicine that combats it is becoming increasingly sophisticated.  Although the medicine does win the struggle for glycemic control, it loses the war against diabetes.

These loses and wins are connected to the rate that the illness is spreading. Whereas in the past, people in industrialized nations were most often affected, this disease has now been exported to poorer countries. As more people in developing countries live like the people in the industrialized world, they become ill more frequently. This leads to the paradoxical situation that the drugs used to treat the disease are indeed getting better, but more and more people continue to suffer from the disease. Many of these people cannot afford the drugs to fight it.

A purely medical approach is not the solution. The cost alone would be astronomical. Already, the EU spends an enormous amount on the fight against diabetes. This number represents 10 per cent of the total annual expenditure for health. All of these costs are for a disease that could be avoided in most cases.

About 20 percent of new diabetes cases are the result of unchangeable risk factors, such as increased life expectancy.

In the cases of the other 80 percent, diabetes stems from bad habits, such as being overweight or obese, a lack of exercise or socioeconomic disadvantages. Most of these risk factors can be reduced through a change of lifestyle. If you are overweight and therefore have type 2 diabetes, the disease will be cured when you lose weight and get back to a normal weight. Unfortunately, most people prefer to take more medications than to change their lifestyles. Small behavioral changes in terms of diet and exercise can reduce risk of the disease by 58 percent over 6 years, as studies show. With simple measures, you can greatly reduce the risk of illness.

An interesting, exciting development is up and coming in the Western world. Never before have so many people lived so unhealthily as they do today, but people were never more health conscious than they are now. Unfortunately, the people who are obese are not the same people who are health conscious, which is why diabetes is further on the rise.