CDC: Diabetes Prevalence Up 14 Percent In Two Years

By Brian McCurdy, Associate Editor

   The prevalence of diabetes in the United States has increased by 14 percent in the last two years, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report concludes that 20.8 million people in the U.S., 7 percent of the population, have the disease and 6.2 million of these people are undiagnosed. In 2003, an estimated 18.2 million people had diabetes, according to the CDC.    Why the rapid rise in diabetes prevalence in just two years? The overall incidence of diabetes may be increasing due to declining diets and sedentary lifestyles, notes Ken Rehm, DPM, a Diplomate of the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry. However, Dr. Rehm says the recent spike may also be due to increased media coverage of diabetes, which has made both patients and doctors more aware of the disease.     “Patients come in to me asking how they can be tested for diabetes. They never used to do this,” comments Dr. Rehm, who is board-certified in treating and preventing diabetic foot wounds.

Emphasizing Preventive Measures

   That said, what should DPMs and patients be doing to prevent a further rise in diabetes prevalence? Dr. Rehm says podiatrists must learn to treat not just foot problems but people who have foot problems. Accordingly, he emphasizes having an increased awareness of how diabetic complications such as neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease and high blood sugars are interrelated, and how they can lead to increased risks for lower extremity complications and potential amputations.    In addition to having a thorough understanding of how various medical conditions can lead to lower extremity dilemmas, Dr. Rehm says DPMs must take an active role in educating patients and facilitating an appropriate preventive program.    Encouraging patients to walk is a vital part of such a preventive lifestyle, says David G. Armstrong, DPM, PhD, a Professor of Surgery, Chair of Research and Assistant Dean at Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. He notes that walking 150 minutes a week can reduce the risk of diabetes by about two-thirds.    To determine if a patient has pre-diabetes, Dr. Rehm says one must conduct the appropriate blood testing of blood sugars and HbA1c. If such tests are abnormal, he suggests referring the patient back to the primary care physician or endocrinologist.    Encouraging patients to take an active role in managing their condition is another important point of emphasis. Dr. Armstrong, an immediate past member of the National Board of Directors of the American Diabetes Association, says his group, the Center for Lower Extremity Ambulatory Research, is currently studying “diabetes cell phones.” The phones include glucose meters and pedometers. He says a trial is planned in which patients would pay less for their cell phones the more often they check their glucose or walk.     “We must put our money where our mouth is if we are going to make any substantive difference,” implores Dr. Armstrong. “It is innovative ideas like this, coupled with a bit of common sense, that can really turn back this overwhelming hyperglycemic tide.”

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