WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A staggering one in eight
Americans has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a new
Harris Interactive/HealthDaypoll suggests.
And more than one third of those polled have been diagnosed with
diabetes or have a parent, sibling, spouse or child with the
"Type 2 diabetes has become one of the most common and fastest growing diseases. Fully one in eight adults -- approximately 29 million people -- now report that they have been diagnosed with this dangerous condition," said Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor.
Added Dr. Ronald Tamler, clinical director of the Mount Sinai
Diabetes Center in New York City: "Diabetes is very insidious. You
don't know you're in trouble until the complications hit or until
it's so out of control you have uncontrolled urination and thirst"
-- two of the common symptoms of diabetes.
While type 2 diabetes is occurring in epic proportions, the new
poll also found that awareness of the disease is still surprisingly
low, with only 21 percent of those surveyed considering themselves
well-versed on the disease. That means the remaining 79 percent may
not know they're at risk or may already have the disease, which is
known as the "silent" killer.
But people already diagnosed with diabetes tend to be much more
aware of the health risks, with slightly more than two-thirds
considering themselves either "extremely" or "very" knowledgeable
about the disease, the poll found.
Still, 35 percent of respondents with diabetes said their
diabetes was only "somewhat" controlled and 5 percent said it was
"not at all" well controlled.
"Because diabetes is a chronic condition, the treatment of which is critically dependent on patient behavior and self-care, this may be the most alarming finding," Taylor said.
On a more encouraging note, many people polled do understand
that a number of factors can contribute to type 2 diabetes,
including being overweight (79 percent of respondents realize this
is a risk factor), diet (74 percent) and physical inactivity (62
These numbers were greater among people who had been diagnosed
Interestingly, 60 percent of respondents know that genetics can
be a component of type 2 diabetes.
"We have a public perception that type 2 diabetes is entirely a disease of lifestyle and that is not true," said Dr. Robert Ratner, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association. "There is no question that lifestyle contributes to it, but the problem is one of biology . . . Environment really does play a role but the biology sets them up."
Indeed, certain ethnic groups, including many Native American
tribes, bear a disproportionate diabetes burden, Ratner added.
Most adults, whether they actually have diabetes or not, seem
fairly knowledgeable about the long-term consequences of the
disease, which can include amputation of limbs, blindness, kidney
disease and heart disease, the poll found.
There was an exception. Only 39 percent of adults overall and 56
percent of those with type 2 diabetes knew that the disease can
"People need to be aware that this is another disease caused by diabetes that can be prevented," said Nancy Copperman, director of Public Health Initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. "The idea of having a stroke might motivate them to change their lifestyle."
The disease seems to be taking a toll on those polled, with 20
percent acknowledging it has been a "significant" burden and 43
percent saying it has been "somewhat" of a burden for themselves
and their families. The burden comes in the form of dietary
restrictions, medication costs, eye problems, cardiovascular
problems and foot problems.
In addition, 9 percent of people with type 2 diabetes said the
condition has rendered them unable to work.
Still, with awareness of genetic factors as well as lifestyle
contributors, "you can live a very full and happy life and thrive
with diabetes," said Mount Sinai's Tamler.
In people with type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn't produce
enough of the hormone insulin or cells can't use the insulin
properly. Insulin is necessary for the body to use glucose -- blood
sugar -- for energy. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of
going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications, according
to the American Diabetes Association.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes found in this new poll is
higher than that reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, although the CDC data is more rigorous, Ratner
The poll was conducted online within the United States by Harris
Interactive from Feb. 4 through 6, among 2,090 adults aged 18 and
older. The survey was not based on a probability sample, so no
estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Calculate your risk for diabetes at the
American Diabetes Association.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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