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November is American Diabetes Month

This month, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is working to raise awareness of the increasing occurrence of several forms of diabetes in its annual knowledge drive. According to the ADA, of the approximately 24 million Americans with diabetes, 95 percent have Type 2 diabetes. In addition, there are 57 million Americans with pre-diabetes who are at risk of developing the disease. These growing numbers have contributed to the rate of deaths due to diabetes, which has increased by 45 percent since 1987. In comparison, during that time period, deaths attributable to heart disease, cancer and stroke have all declined.

While diabetes rates have increased among all age groups, health officials are particularly concerned with one. According to Dr. Jonathan Scheff, chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc., seniors have the highest rate of diabetes among all age groups. Approximately 12 million Americans age 60 and older, or over 20 percent of that age group, have diabetes. In addition, one out of five Americans is diagnosed with diabetes by age 75, Schoff said, which is a definite cause for concern. "Given the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among seniors, it's crucial that those in this group become more aware of the steps they can take to manage this disease or, preferably, to prevent it all together," he said.

Because diabetes is one of the conditions in the Social Security Administration's listing of impairments, both Type 1 and Type 2 sufferers may qualify for benefits. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce sufficient levels of insulin, making insulin injections necessary. In comparison, Type 2 diabetes results in insufficient levels of insulin production, and as a result, glucose remains in the bloodstream. Over time, accumulated glucose can cause serious damage to the heart, kidneys, and eyes.

According to Scheff, seniors - and all Americans - can take steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and practicing good oral hygiene. "A positive aspect of diabetes is that it can be controlled. And the complications associated with diabetes can be delayed or even prevented," he said. "These aren't difficult steps to take, and they can make a tremendous difference in your health."

Source: Market Watch, "Diabetes Especially Serious for Seniors", 9 November 2010

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