diabetics weight lossDiabetics and obesity pose the most serious threats to U.S. health in the long run, and in the very near future. According to a frightening new prediction, half of all Americans are doomed to develop diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020, threatening to overwhelm the national health care system. Studies indicate that this savage disease is often successfully treated through simple diabetic diets.

If the current course continues, the mass of Americans with high blood sugar levels will increase from 93.8 million this year to 135 million in 2020. Sixty percent of the yearly $500 billion costs of the obesity-driven epidemic will be carried by the U.S. government according to a new study. An estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected that as many as 1 in 3 adults will be diabetic by 2050. That’s a colossal jump from current diabetes stats, which is 1 in 10 adults. The report’s projections are that by 2050, 30% of the population will have diabetes, with Latino, African-American, and other minorities hitting 50%.

The obesity epidemic, paired with a global rise in Type 2 diabetes, has enormous consequences for Americans’ health and welfare, as well as their bank accounts. Type 2 diabetes, the type of the disease linked to excess body weight, is a powerful determinant of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation, all of which are costly conditions.

New research shows the time bomb ticking in America, but fortunately there are sensible steps that can be taken now to deactivate it. A major impact on the diabetic and pre-diabetes epidemic will call for health plans to enlist consumers in new ways, while working nationally with some of the most encouraging preventive care models.

UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurance company, is developing a National Diabetes Prevention Program approved under health care reforms that President Obama signed into law. The goal is to devise community-based programs that urge men and women to drop 5-7% of their body weight and exercise a minimum of half an hour, five days a week, activities which have been proven to profoundly lower diabetes risk.

Particularly worrisome is what’s ahead for America’s children. Caucasian youngsters born in 2000, will have a 30% chance of diabetes in their lifetime. Half of minority kids are expected have diabetes in their lifetime. The key marker of risk for diabetes is fat around the waistline.

The report recommends interventions derived from evidence that rigorous lifestyle changes can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program demonstrated that diet and exercise can reduce by 58% the risk of becoming diabetic for overweight and obese people with pre-diabetes. Despite those results, most people have proven themselves unable or unwilling to maintain the long-term steps necessary to realize these improvements.

The federally funded Look AHEAD trial, a long-term study of exercise and weight loss on cardiovascular risks among obese and overweight diabetics found that emphasizing social support with an intensive Diabetes Prevention Program of parties and classes with both individual and group sessions were instrumental in engaging patients in their own health care.

The snag is that people who do lose weight, will regain it once the support stops. Essentially, everyone with diabetes requires a lifelong lifestyle coach. They need a support group and a walking group, somebody calling and bugging them. The solution appears to be a constant community outreach. If 50% of the community has diabetes or pre-diabetes, then the entire community needs to motivate. Starting with the mayor’s office leading a walking program, and a Town Hall healthy dinner once a week. Health care companies can also lead the way with incentives for healthy behavior, rather than penalties for bad practices. The solution to diabetes boils down to determining how to motivate people, and, even more problematic, how will the country find the money to pay for it.

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