To understand the scope of the diabetes epidemic, you need only look at the numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 15 percent of Americans were obese in 1980. Today, that number is 30 percent.
And if you add in Americans who are not obese, but are just moderately overweight, the number jumps to an eye-popping 61 percent.
The increase in diabetes even exceeds that level. In 1980, there were 5.5 million people with diabetes in the U.S. Today that number stands at 25 million — and it is still climbing.
But that’s not even the worst news. In 1980, only 5 percent of children were obese. That number has tripled, and the age at which people are becoming diabetic is getting younger and younger. These numbers threaten to wipe out all the progress our country has made in the fight against heart disease.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Like heart disease, diabetes is preventable. Also like heart disease, it can be reversed. The key to beating diabetes is to drop that excess weight, once and for all.
By the way, when using the term “diabetes,” I am referring to what is called Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as “adult onset” diabetes. This form of diabetes accounts for 90 percent of all cases, and it is this type of diabetes that fuels heart disease.
Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin-manufacturing abilities of the pancreas is gradually destroyed. This type of diabetes also causes heart damage, but it’s not preventable, and is much rarer.
According to government officials at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, not only are we growing bigger, but so is our food. Twenty years ago, the average bagel had 120 calories; today, it contains 350. Back then, a plate of spaghetti and three small meatballs had 590 calories.
Today, if you order such a meal, it will be twice the size and twice the calories.
The food industry certainly isn’t helping. For instance, one fast food restaurant’s current advertising campaign urges Americans to add a late-at-night “fourth meal.” We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic and we need to add another meal? Not a good idea.
But portions are only part of the problem. A consistently lazy lifestyle is also contributing to the spread of diabetes. According to a recent report by the CDC, fewer than two out of every 10 Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week.
The report even found that 25 percent of Americans don’t exercise at all. This means no golf, gardening, or other leisurely physical activity. These people don’t even go for a walk around the block!
If you are overweight, the likelihood that you will become diabetic soars. Obesity even trumps genetics as a cause of diabetes.