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November 4, 2011 > Raise Your Hand To Stop Diabetes

Raise Your Hand To Stop Diabetes

American Diabetes Month Aims To Raise Awareness, Promote Positive Action

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25.8 million American men, women and children are living with diabetes - yet as many as 7 million of those people are not aware they have the disease. Furthermore, the prevalence of this deadly disease has increased dramatically in recent years, and current estimates project that as many as one of every three American adults will have diabetes by 2050 unless people take better control of their health.

"The rising incidence of diabetes is alarming," says Dr. Prasad Katta, an endocrinologist on the medical staff at Washington Hospital. "Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease of the older generation, but we are seeing more and more Type 2 diabetes in younger people. If current trends continue, up to 33 percent of children born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetime. This could be the first time that the life expectancy of the younger generation will be lower than that of their parents."

In diabetes, the body cannot properly convert sugar from food into energy, causing sugar levels in the blood and urine to rise. The complications of diabetes can be serious, and those complications can start very early. Most complications stem from changes in the blood vessels and nerves that affect various parts of the body, including the eyes, kidneys, heart and limbs.

November is American Diabetes Month, and the American Diabetes Association is encouraging people to take a pledge to help fight diabetes with the campaign theme of "I Raise My Hand To Stop Diabetes." People can take the American Diabetes Month pledge on Facebook. Information on the campaign also is available at

"The most important thing for people to know is how to avoid getting diabetes in the first place, which generally requires a change of lifestyle," Dr. Katta explains. "Some risk factors, such as family history of diabetes and race or ethnicity can't be changed. The incidence of diabetes is considerably higher among Southeast Asians, Indians, Native Americans and Hispanics, for example. Other risk factors for diabetes, though, are behavioral. Obesity resulting from a poor diet and lack of exercise is a major risk factor for diabetes. Nearly three-quarters of the patients I treat for diabetes are overweight or obese."

Dr. Katta urges people to pay attention to their diet and to get regular exercise as a means of preventing diabetes, as well as managing diabetes if they have already developed the disease.

"Healthy eating is a cornerstone of diabetes prevention and management," he says. "The quantity and types of food you eat have an impact on your blood sugar. It also helps to eat smaller meals at regular intervals. You want to maintain an even level of blood sugar in the body, without large fluctuations that can result from skipping meals or eating large quantities all at once."

The nutrition guidelines for preventing and managing diabetes have evolved over the past few years, emphasizing a more balanced diet that avoids an over-reliance on proteins that can be hard on the kidneys and includes moderate amounts of foods that were once considered "forbidden." Information about making healthy food choices can be found on the American Diabetes Association's Web site at

As for exercise, Dr. Katta recommends 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week, but preferably every day. "I jokingly tell my patients that they should exercise only on the days they eat - which of course means every day," he says. "You need more than a 10-minute walk. You need to raise your heart rate until you can feel your heartbeat and break out in a sweat."

Dr. Katta notes that in the early stages, diabetes often produces no noticeable symptoms, but early symptoms may include frequent urination, excessive thirst and extreme hunger, especially for sugary foods. More extreme symptoms can include unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet, frequent bladder or vaginal yeast infections, and slow healing of cuts or bruises.

"The complications and consequences of untreated diabetes can be deadly," says Dr. Katta. "Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, but that does not fully describe the problem. In many cases, diabetes is not listed as the primary cause of death, but it contributes to deaths from heart disease, kidney failure and stroke. Diabetes also is the leading cause of blindness and non-traumatic leg and foot amputations."

The financial costs of diabetes are on the rise, too. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the average medical expenditure among people with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than among those without the disease.

"As of 2007, the latest year for which we have data, the total national medical cost of diabetes was $174 billion, and it's probably more than $200 billion now," Dr. Katta says. "We are fortunate to have many new advances in medications and treatments for diabetes. But patients and physicians still need to be more aggressive in preventing and controlling diabetes than we are now."

Washington Hospital Diabetes Health Fair - Saturday, November 19

Washington Hospital physicians and diabetes educators will come together on Saturday, November 19 to help community members take control of diabetes.
The free health fair will include breakfast and snack, screenings - including blood glucose, A1C and cholesterol - as well as educational booths and presentations from experts in diabetes management. A special interactive cooking demonstration will also take place. The event will take place from 8 a.m. to Noon at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. Visit for more information.

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