The problem is that very few people will take advantage of The Cure in spite of the fact that it has been known for decades, requires no direct intervention by a doctor, no insulin pumps or blood sugar tests. The Cure would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars of healthcare costs every year. It would dramatically reduce the personal pain associated with thousands of amputations, bypass surgeries, strokes, years of severely degraded quality of life – and early death.
So why does this insidious disease continue to spread? In spite of the fact that the consequences of not taking The Cure can be severe, most victims of the disease reject The Cure.
Is The Cure an inexpensive “magic pill” that has been kept from us by some nefarious plot of the drug industry? No, it’s actually much worse than that.
Well-meaning people are often willing to walk or bicycle to raise money to find a cure for this disease for their loved ones and friends. Each year millions of dollars are donated for research into finding a new “magic” (but probably very expensive) pill, when the nearly free Cure is readily available.
Magazines, television and the Internet have touted this cure for years. By now every Type 2 diabetic and obese person has surely heard about it – and yet most diabetics choose not to avail themselves of The Cure.
So just what is this magic cure? The way sufferers avoid it, it must be a very bitter pill indeed. However, before I tell you about The Cure, lets look at the disease:
Type 2 Diabetes is not a disease in isolation. It is associated with a larger set of health and lifestyle issues called Metabolic Syndrome, and is endemic in American society. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) based on a sample of 8,842 Americans,“The unadjusted and age-adjusted prevalence of the metabolic syndrome were 21.8% and 23.7%, respectively. The prevalence increased from 6.7% among participants aged 20 through 29 years to 43.5% and 42.0% for participants aged 60 through 69 years…”
Metabolic Syndrome, as generally defined by the American Heart Association and others, can usually be identified as having these characteristics:
- Abdominal obesity (waist of 42 for men and 35 for women)
- High triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and high LDL cholesterol
- Elevated blood pressure (more than 130 over 85)
- Insulin resistance or glucose intolerance (fasting glucose greater than 100 mg/dL)
It’s true that not all people with these issues will develop Type 2 Diabetes, but if their symptoms are left unaddressed, many likely will. Metabolic Syndrome is a continuum leading to full-blown Type 2 Diabetes, leading to various forms of cardiovascular and organ failure, with dire results.
Diabetes was the seventh leading underlying cause of death listed on death certificates in 2006. Even at that level, diabetes is still greatly underreported as a cause of death. Only about 35 to 40% of those who died with diabetes had it listed anywhere on the death certificate. Only 10 to 15% of studied cases had it listed as the underlying cause of death.
Here’s the kicker: The risk for death among people with diabetes is about twice that of those without diabetes of similar age.
Death is often not the worst part of runaway Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Let me illustrate by sharing a personal story:
My best female friend going back to the first grade – who was also a church choir mate and high school confidant – became obese during a bad marriage while she was in her twenties. By the time my wife and I reconnected with her when she was fifty, she had taken insulin injections for years. We convinced her to take a medical retirement to better deal with her disease and to also avoid a work environment that fostered her smoking and constant snacking on unhealthy food. We returned to visit her twice after she retired, and found her making slow progress and enjoying life again. On our last visit she crocheted an Afghan for us to use in our motor home. We still treasure her gift and even named it “Linda.” I’m sure you can see where this is going…
Suffering from severely blocked arteries in her heart, brought on by her Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, she went in to the hospital for bypass surgery. At her relatively young age of 53, bypass surgery is a procedure assumed generally safe and effective, at least for the short-term.
Unfortunately, our friend went directly from surgery into intensive care, and suffered there for a month before she died. Diabetes severely limits the body’s ability to heal, and in her case her heart never responded. I cannot imagine a worse death – being hooked up to tubes, feeling helpless – and then slowly, painfully slipping away.
She was lucky in some ways. She didn’t have to endure limb amputations, or slow organ failure. She didn’t have to manage most of the myriad of health issues facing Type 2 Diabetics as they grow older, dying before her condition could reach that level.
By writing this I am not trying to make those who are Type 2 Diabetics – or have Metabolic Syndrome and are pre-diabetic – feel guilty. Guilt is not a motivator. There is a genetic component that contributes to the development of Type 2 Diabetes in those with Metabolic Syndrome, and even some without the syndrome. My mother had “sugar” – as they once called mildly elevated blood sugar – and yet she was never overweight. I know that it is in my genetic makeup and it is as important for me to avoid Metabolic Syndrome as anyone else.
Besides all the pain and suffering caused indirectly by Metabolic Syndrome, the direct yearly costs to our economy for diabetes is $174 billion. A number like that spent on just one disease puts total Medicare expenditures in perspective. We could save all of that every year by just using The Cure.
Here is the good news: Several avenues of research have shown that Metabolic Syndrome and even entrenched Type 2 Diabetes can be reversed with The Cure I mentioned at the beginning of this article. This readily available, inexpensive Cure, is not being accessed by most of the millions of Americans with Type 2 Diabetics. For them it must be a bitter pill indeed.
By now you have probably guessed The Cure:
- Weight loss to achieve a desirable weight (BMI less than 25 kg/m2)
- Increased physical activity, with a goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week
- Healthy eating habits that include reduced intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol
That doesn’t sound so difficult does it? Yes, it takes time, a little sweat equity and changing a few dietary habits. It also requires some lifestyle changes that many people find difficult.
For some the dietary and exercise changes are a threat to their self-image – even their culture. British television star, Jamie Oliver (“The Naked Chef”), came to Huntington, West Virginia. It’s my home state, and Huntington is a college town. That city had the dubious distinction of being America’s “most obese city” in 2008, with a population suffering a very high incidence of Type 2 Diabetes. Oliver’s mission was to bring his healthy eating program to the children of the public schools. What he found was that the children could not name common vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and turnips. Nor could they identify any of the vegetables that I’d grown as a child on a small farm forty miles away, and available in chain grocery stores everywhere.
Surprisingly, Jamie Oliver was not met with appreciation, but with virulent opposition from many of the locals. They claimed he was trying to take away the culture of the mountains and making them the laughing-stock of the country.
I suggested through my Facebook posts that doing something about the problem might be a better response. The comments that came back to me were filled with sarcasm about my personal life of exercise and interest in healthy eating.
I tried to point out, with little success, that the original mountain culture did not include fast food, fatty barbecue, pizzas, and popular eating contests. Instead, it included lots of vegetables, whole grains, and local meat. It also included plenty of exercise. My grandfather ate pork most days, and must have had awful LDL numbers, but he was still swinging a mowing scythe when he was ninety.
My friends in West Virginia, and all over America, no longer follow that original lifestyle. Instead, they are eating what the large processed food companies tell them to eat, and are experiencing the consequences of that choice.
I assume this article will upset some readers. We are not a society that likes to take personal responsibility for our health, and we don’t like being preached to or nagged about it. If I have offended you, please know it is not personal. On the other hand, if you have Metabolic Syndrome, or Type 2 Diabetes, I sincerely hope you will reconsider The Cure.
I can assure you that it’s a pill that’s not nearly as bitter as you might think.