Nearly 30 million Americans (9.3% of the population) had diabetes as of 2012. This was up from 25.8 million just two years earlier in 2010.1 These are alarming numbers, especially when one considers the healthcare and economic costs of diabetes, in addition to a reduced quality of life.
Understanding Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
The majority of those with the condition have Type 2 diabetes, in which the body is unable to properly use insulin produced by the pancreas. Insulin brings glucose (a crucial energy source) into the cells, fueling the body. Glucose that remains in the bloodstream because the body does not produce enough insulin can cause damage to the nerves, kidneys, and eyes, and it often affects circulation in the legs and feet, causing tissues to die. Amputations of the feet and legs are often the result. Diabetes is also associated with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. It was formerly called juvenile diabetes, because it commonly occurs in childhood, but it can begin in adults, as well. People with Type 1 diabetes require insulin injections.
Perhaps the most troubling news is the rise of diabetes among children. Nearly 167,000 children and teens under age 20 have Type 1 diabetes, while more than 20,000 have Type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study.
What Causes Diabetes?
Genetic markers have been identified as contributing factors in the development of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Genes, along with a calorie-rich food environment and more sedentary lifestyles are all contributing factors to the explosive rise in diabetes cases. Consider that in 1950 around one percent of the U.S. population had diabetes.2 Today more than nine percent are afflicted. Our genes haven’t changed in that amount of time, but our food environment has changed considerably.
The Enormous Costs of Diabetes
Diabetes has huge social and economic costs. The total cost of diabetes in the United States was estimated at $245 billion in 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association,3 and a person with diabetes spends 2.3 times more on medical expenses than someone without the disease. Additionally, lost productivity and disabilities related to diabetes complications cost U.S. employers billions every year.
The causes of diabetes are complex, and reducing the epidemic will likely require a multi-faceted approach. If we continue on our current trajectory, one in three Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050.4
The high cost of treating diabetes makes it especially important that individuals with the condition have health insurance. Call BenefitPackages today for help finding a California health insurance plan.