Diabetes still prevalent despite drop in new diagnoses

LOS ANGELES – The number of new cases of diabetes dropped nearly 20 percent between 2008 and 2014, according to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

However, this does not drastically change the landscape of diabetes in America, according to the American Diabetes Association.

“The number of total new diagnosed cases dropping from 1.7 million in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2014 is encouraging, but it doesn’t erase the fact that one-in-eight American adults still lives with the burden of diabetes,” said Maggie Powers, PhD, RD, CDE President-Elect, Health Care & Education with the American Diabetes Association.

Powers also cautioned that the CDC reports showed that the number of new cases of diagnosed diabetes has decreased significantly only among whites. “When examining the data among high-risk minority populations, there is no evidence that shows a change in numbers after they reached an all-time high in 2009,” Powers said.

All people at risk should be screened by their physicians for diabetes, especially those in minority groups, Powers said. African Americans and Hispanics are almost twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. Asian-Americans also are at greater risk.

When considering the scope of a chronic disease like diabetes, it is important to look at both incidence (how many new cases are being reported) and prevalence (how many cases there are currently), she added. While the number of new cases has gone down, it remains to be seen if the total number of cases also will decrease.

Nearly 30 million Americans live with the disease, which is the leading cause of working age blindness, kidney failure and amputations.

Educational programs and access to wellness resources can play an important role in both preventing type 2 diabetes and helping people living with all types of diabetes manage their disease, live longer and reduce their risk of its dangerous complications.

Cesar Vasquez-Carrera struggled with weight, medications and health issues for more than three decades. Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1978 at the age of 20 – at that time known as adult onset diabetes – Vasquez-Carrera tried dieting to manage his disease, only to fail.

“I never lost enough weight,” said Vasquez-Carrera, a Hispanic retail worker in Los Angeles. His wake up call came in 2014 when he tipped the scale at 217 pounds and his medical doctor referred him to the Association where he began taking classes every Saturday at The Wellness Center in Los Angeles.

“Calorie counting never worked for me. Actually seeing the size of a plate and learning what to put on it made the difference.”

Knowledge learned from the weekly classes empowered Vasquez-Carrera to lose 65 pounds by not only knowing what to eat but how to eat. “I eat five small meals a day and check my glucose before bed to make sure my numbers are at 100. If below, I eat a sixth small meal for the day. I don’t deprive myself of anything, but eat everything in moderation.”

Besides mastering the personal commitment, time and perseverance necessary to bring about his transformation, Vasquez-Carrera felt that perhaps the most difficult part of his journey has been learning to tell others ‘no thank you’ when offered food that’s not part of his regimen.

Exercise and the support of others he met through the Association also contributed to his success. “Last year I could only walk 5-10 minutes at best; now I walk everywhere.”

After years on insulin, medications and a candidate for a knee replacement, his weight loss has reversed the trajectory. All medications have been eliminated – including cholesterol and high blood pressure meds – and his knee has returned to near normal, according to his physician.

 “There was one point in time when I didn’t think I would see my own children grow up,” Vasquez-Carrera said referring to the early days of his disease. Today he and his wife enjoy family life with five adult children and eight grandchildren with two on the way.

“I’m setting a good example for my children and grandchildren with how I eat, and I look forward to being here long enough to witness another generation.”

Vasquez-Carrera’s story is one of many inspiring examples of people who are not allowing a diagnosis of diabetes to define their lives, Powers said.

“Diabetes remains one of America’s most devastating chronic diseases. It’s scary, painful, demanding, expensive and dangerous. But it’s not invincible. People with diabetes of all ages and walks of life accomplish amazing things each and every day,” Powers continued. “They’re the reason why we can’t let down our guard.”

For more information call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org.

HealthStaff ReportDiabetes