Living a compassionate life begins by taking compassionate, loving care of your health and your self. This is the 2nd Compassion enabling each us to achieve The Great Healing – for ourselves and for our planet. This series excerpts and adapts Chapter 2 of the new book, The Great Healing.
If Pre-Diabetic is the name of the road you are on, then the city you are heading to is named Type 2 Diabetes. It’s a big city — 95% of diabetics live there. When Brady arrives in that city, his neighborhood — given his young age — has a special name: Early-onset Type 2 Diabetes. Once he moves into Type 2 Diabetes, if he remains a resident there, his life expectancy will be reduced by 15 years.[i] Brady will likely not live beyond his mid-60s.
All those wonderful years of your life’s full span spent living with the knowledge you’ve gained, the experiences and adventures you’ve had, the family and friends you have created, the joys and the sorrows enabling you to arrive at an understanding of life, a perspective unique to who you are, infusing a sharp brain riding high on a healthy savvy body, sensually attuned and more than adequately ambulatory, ready now for new adventures and experiences captained by a discerning mind, clever now, learned, influential, perhaps even wise. These are years young Brady can barely even conceive of, let alone envision — his mid-60’s, the 70’s and 80’s, stages of life that Tinna is looking forward to enjoying and living through for herself, and that she now realizes, if her son becomes diabetic, he will likely never experience.
Even worse, Brady’s diabetic trajectory into his 30’s, 40’s and 50’s will be years lived while enduring increasingly limited physical stamina and ability. He’ll experience low energy and diminished brain function, years spent in an expanding body at high and ever-increasing risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, liver and kidney failure, of neuropathy worsening over time into limb amputations, declining vision leading to blindness, erectile dysfunction, brain fog, anxiety, depression and dementia.
Eventually diabetes reduces kidney function to the point where dialysis becomes imperative for survival, but surprisingly few diabetics need that treatment — just those who actually live that long.
In the 1960s, type 2 diabetes was rare, effecting 1 out of 100 people. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2019 update of its Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics reports 26 million American adults have been diagnosed with diabetes. 26 million is 9.8% of the population — nearly one in ten adult Americans.[ii]
The AHA estimates that an additional 9.4 million, or 3.7%, of American adults have diabetes that has yet to be diagnosed.[iii] Diabetes then, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, affects 13.1% of American adults. 1 out of every 8 of us has it. As of 2015, 1.5 million Americans are being diagnosed with diabetes every year.[iv]
These are the numbers of an epidemic.
Our situation is actually even more dire. The same report notes that in addition, “about 91.8 million, or 37.6% of American adults have pre-diabetes.”[v] That means half of all Americans — of all ages — have been diagnosed with diabetes, have diabetes and don’t realize it, or are pre-diabetic.
Up until fairly recently, the medical term was “adult-onset diabetes.” This condition has now been renamed “type 2 diabetes” because it is affecting so many children, and at younger and younger ages.
Obesity leads to diabetes.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S. since 1980. As of October 2017, the childhood obesity rate nationwide was 18.5%. The rate rises as children get older: 13.9% of 2 to 5-year-olds are obese as are 18.4% of all 6 to 11-year-olds. For 12 to 19-year-olds, 20.6% are obese.[vi] Obesity rates are rising faster in children than adults.
Obesity in adolescence is significantly associated with severe obesity in adulthood along with the increased likelihood of life-threatening maladies.[vii] If you are obese as a child it is five times more likely you will be obese as an adult.[viii] 70% of Americans are now overweight or obese.[ix]
Over 25% of our children have some kind of chronic health problem. Over 50% of all Americans do. Four million deaths are attributed solely to obesity each year.
Tinna and John love their four sons. They have parented Brady; taken care of him, raised him and are so proud of the outstanding young man he is becoming. He’s a straight-A, honor roll student. He’s the one who makes sure everyone else is okay. He is more than they ever hoped for. And now the family pediatrician tells her that the food they have been providing for their children is harming them?! Tinna’s mad at herself and questions rush to her mind. Questions like, “How is this happening to our son?” “Why is this happening to our son?”“Why didn’t I think to ask more about that while I was right there?” And as she and her son pull into their driveway, “What the heck?!”
Doctors are delivering diagnoses like Brady’s to increasing numbers of children and their parents. Millions of us aren’t doing so well — despite our education, our medical and technological advances, all the skillsets and tools at our disposal…
We have the knowledge. We lack the understanding.
Diabetes is a gateway.
Diabetes is the gateway to heart disease.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. And the biggest risk factor for heart disease aside from smoking is pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.[x] Should Brady become diabetic, the odds that he will have a heart attack become much greater. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes.”[xi] In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for diabetics.
AHA 2019 statistics show that 800,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular illnesses. That’s 1 out of every 3 deaths. 48% of American adults — 121.5 million people— are living with coronary heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure or the after-effects of stroke.[xii] On average, one American has a heart attack every 34 seconds.
47% of all Americans have at least one of 3 key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or they are a smoker according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[xiii] As a 4th risk factor, diabetes ranks second among these.
45.6% of American adults have high blood pressure (based on the new thresholds of 130/80).[xiv] And nearly half of them do not have it under control. 77% of people who experience their first stroke had high blood pressure at the time. Strokes kill over 132,000 Americans a year, which means they are the 5th leading cause of death. They can happen at any age. Strokes are a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the U.S.[xv], making them particularly nasty.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D., specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. In his compelling book Fast Food Genocide, the connection between a poor diet heavy in fried foods, fast food, and processed foods and the increased risk of disease is evident: “The epidemic of strokes, occurring at younger and younger ages, has sparked an entire industry of health care facilities that cater to impaired young people who have destroyed large sections of their brains with fast food.”[xvi]
Diabetes is also a gateway to cancer.
In 1960, 1 in 80 Americans could expect to get cancer. Today cancer strikes 1 out of 2 of us. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 1,762,450 new cancer cases in the United States in 2019 and 606,880 cancer deaths.[xvii] A CDC study reveals that over the past decade overweight and obesity-related cancers constitute 40% of all new cancer cases.[xviii]
Mark Hyman, M.D., the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, founder of The UltraWellness Center and bestselling author of 14 books writes, “We know certain things for sure. Insulin resistance or pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes dramatically increases the risk of most common cancers (prostate, breast, colon, pancreas, liver, etc.). We also know that inflammation increases cancer risk.”[xix]
Studies have shown that insulin resistance (the hallmark of type 2 diabetes) causes the body to produce increased amounts of insulin in order to overcome the opposition to it. This leads to elevated insulin levels, which induces other growth factors. Together insulin and these growth factors act on and promote the growth of cancer cells increasing the risk of developing cancer in diabetics.[xx]
Avoiding or reversing diabetes reduces your risk of cancer. And what you eat plays the central role in this. The American Cancer Society states, “A substantial proportion of cancers could be prevented including” the 18% caused by a combination of excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition.[xxi]
Diabetes is a gateway to loss of brain function.
This affects adults through Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and our youth as well, via ADHD and conditions on the autism spectrum.
Just as adult-onset diabetes was renamed type 2 diabetes in order to be more name-appropriate in our contemporary era, it is now becoming increasingly common in medical circles to refer to Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-degenerative conditions as… type 3 diabetes.
Alzheimer’s disease affected 5.4 million people in the United States in 2018, a number that is projected to nearly triple by 2050.[xxii]
Up until recently, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia were diagnosed predominantly in elderly patients, and your genetics combined with an aging body were thought to be key contributing factors. It is now understood that these diseases are progressive and begin much earlier in life.
Recent research, including a report with this heady title, Midlife Adiposity Predicts Earlier Onset of Alzheimer’s Dementia, Neuropathology and Presymptomatic Cerebral Amyloid Accumulation, has shown that people who have a higher BMI at age 50 have a “robust association” with both the earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and a greater severity of Alzheimer’s neuropathology as it develops in them.[xxiii] Other research by Samantha Budd Haeberlein, Ph.D., and Biogen substantiates this, revealing that proteins begin building up and forming plaque in the brain for decades before a person demonstrates memory loss.[xxiv] A pervasive correlation has been established between obesity, diabetes and the onset of these cognitive diseases.
Behavioral symptoms of a diseased brain include anxiety, anger and depression. So not only are you losing your mind, but you’re not too happy about it either.
Dr. Fuhrman realizes that this deterioration of the brain begins sooner in life, much sooner, during childhood when a child’s brain is developing, earlier still as a baby, even earlier in the womb… “It’s not just children that are becoming obese, it’s that the American diet reduces intelligence in your child, it interferes with your child’s ability to concentrate in school. We’re not just talking about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD], which is linked to that. Even the diet a mother eats in her pregnancy affects whether her child gets autism or not, whether her child gets childhood cancer. Eating luncheon meats and high-nitrated foods, and a lot of processed foods and a low level of phytochemicals in her diet are linked to having a child with an autoimmune condition or childhood cancer. And then your child doesn’t do well in school. Their intelligence is based on how properly they are fed and how properly the mother ate.
“Parents should be wary because even before your kids become overweight, even before they become diabetic, feeding them these high glycemic, greasy, fried fast foods and processed foods is destructive to their potential, to their brain function, to their being able to realize the American Dream, and be economically and emotionally successful in life.”[xxv]
Diabetes is also a gateway to liver disease, kidney and renal failure.
Your blood circulation is impaired when high levels of sugars in your bloodstream react with and damage molecules of the cells lining your blood vessels. Diabetes encourages inflammation and weakens your body’s immune system. As your blood circulation is impaired, so is your body’s ability to cleanse and heal itself. This impacts not just a specific organ such as your heart, liver, or your brain, but the entirety of your circulatory system leading to a myriad of complications. These include erectile dysfunction, retinopathy, which is impaired vision including glaucoma that can progress to blindness, and neuropathy which is damage to your nerves, a condition that often begins as a loss of sensation or a tingling in your fingers and toes and worsens over time until amputations become necessary.
Over the entire span of human evolution, today is a tremendous time to be alive, to enjoy life, to take in every wonderful moment of an elongated optimized lifespan.
Our science and technology have broadened our knowledge and understanding of this world and everything in it, and we are especially well equipped in the field of medicine with our tools and skillsets. In just the past two centuries, humankind has experienced the virtual eradication of polio, smallpox and tuberculosis. Malaria may soon join that list. As a civilization, we invest significant resources, energy and effort into scientific research and discovery resulting in innumerable medical advances, including antibiotics, vaccines, and surgical procedures that have demonstrably increased our quality of life, our potential and our longevity.
Our next generation’s life expectancy will decline. Our children, on average, will not live as long as we do.
American life expectancy began to decline in 2015 and 2016. Mike Stobbes’ 2018 Associated Press report, U.S. Life Expectancy Will Likely Decline for Third Straight Year notes that the last time a three-year decline occurred was “in 1916, 1917 and 1918, a period that included the worst flu pandemic in modern history.”[xxvi]
Almost all of us have relatives, friends, colleagues or others we know who are overweight, or diabetic, and have had their lives cut short or their quality of life severely diminished as a result.
It is hard to comprehend, but the numbers of us at risk are even higher. Many of us who appear thin, fit and healthy externally, are also at risk of diabetes. Our blood work can reveal fat accumulation inside our vascular systems and organs (visceral fat) at levels similar to those of us who are overweight. This fat is much more hazardous than the fat accumulating under our skin (subcutaneous fat). Dr. Hyman writes that “23% of adults look skinny but are what doctors term metabolically obese normal weight, or TOFI (Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside).” The vast majority are undiagnosed. Dr. Hyman continues, “So there’s a good chance that you have it and don’t even know it. And it’s the very thing standing in your way of losing weight and living a long, healthy life.”[xxvii]
I take it back. This is more than an epidemic. These are the numbers of a pandemic.
[i] Maria I. Constantino, L Molyneaux, F Limacher-Gisler, et al. Long-term Complications and Mortality in Young-onset Diabetes: Type 2 Diabetes is More Hazardous and Lethal than Type 1 Diabetes, Diabetes Care, Dec. 2013, 36(12):3863-9. doi: 10.2337/dc12-2455. Epub 2013 Jul 11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23846814
[ii] Emelia J. Benjamin, Paul Muntner, Alvaro Alonso, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. AHA Journals Circulation. Vol. 139, No. 10, Jan. 31, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
[iii] Emelia J. Benjamin, Paul Muntner, Alvaro Alonso, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. AHA Journals Circulation. Vol. 139, No. 10, Jan. 31, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
[iv] American Diabetes Association, Statistics About Diabetes, Mar. 22, 2018, http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/
[v] Emelia J. Benjamin, Paul Muntner, Alvaro Alonso, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. AHA Journals Circulation. Vol. 139, No. 10, Jan. 31, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
[vi] Emelia J. Benjamin, Paul Muntner, Alvaro Alonso, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. AHA Journals Circulation. Vol. 139, No. 10, Jan. 31, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
The State of Childhood Obesity, Childhood Obesity Trends, The State of Obesity, a collaborative project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Oct., 2017 https://stateofobesity.org/childhood/
[vii] The NS, Suchindran C, North KE, et al. Association of Adolescent Obesity with Risk of Severe Obesity in Adulthood, JAMA, Nov. 10, 2010, 304(18):2042-7. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.1635. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21063014
[viii] Emelia J. Benjamin, Paul Muntner, Alvaro Alonso, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. AHA Journals Circulation. Vol. 139, No. 10, Jan. 31, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
[ix] Overweight & Obesity Statistics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Aug. 2017 https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity
[x] Pencina, Michael J., Navar AM, Wojdyla D, et al., Quantifying Importance of Major Risk Factors for Coronary Heart Disease. Circulation, Mar. 26, 2019, 139.13 (2019): 1603-1611.) doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.031855. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30586759
[xi] American Heart Association, Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes, Heart.org, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/diabetes/why-diabetes-matters/cardiovascular-disease–diabetes
[xii] Emelia J. Benjamin, Paul Muntner, Alvaro Alonso, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. AHA Journals Circulation. Vol. 139, No. 10, Jan. 31, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
[xiii] National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Heart Disease Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nov. 28, 2017 https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
[xiv] Emelia J. Benjamin, Paul Muntner, Alvaro Alonso, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2019 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. AHA Journals Circulation. Vol. 139, No. 10, Jan. 31, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
[xv] Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2017 At-a-Glance, A report from the American Heart Association. Jan. 25, 2017 Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000485 https://healthmetrics.heart.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Heart-Disease-and-Stroke-Statistics-2017-ucm_491265.pdf
[xvi] Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Fast Food Genocide, New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2017 pg. 32.
[xvii] Cancer Facts & Figures 2019, The American Cancer Society, 2019 https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2019.html
[xviii] C. Brooke Steele, Cheryll C. Thomas, S. Jane Henley, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in Incidence of Cancers Associated with Overweight and Obesity – United States, 2005 – 2014, MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1052-1058 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 3, 2017 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6639e1.htm
[xix] Mark Hyman, M.D. Eat Fat, Get Thin, New York, New York: Little, Brown and Co., Hachette Book Group, 2016 pg. 167
[xx] Emily J. Gallagher, Derek LeRoith, Minireview: IGF, Insulin, and Cancer, Endocrinology, Vol 152, Issue 7, Jul. 1, 2011, Pgs. 2546–2551,https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2011-0231 https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/152/7/2546/2457127
Thank you Sven Walderich.
[xxi] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2019. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2019/cancer-facts-and-figures-2019.pdf
[xxii] Liesi E. Hebert, Jennife Weuve, Paul A. Scherr, Denis A. Evans, Alzheimer Disease in the United States (2010-2050) Estimated Using the 2010 Census, American Academy of Neurology, US National Library of Medicine, May 7, 2013 Neurology. 2013 May 7; 80(19): 1778–1783. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719424/
[xxiii] Yi-Fang Chuang, Yang An, Murat Bilgel, et al. Midlife Adiposity Predicts Earlier Onset of Alzheimer’s Dementia, Neuropathology and Presymptomatic Cerebral Amyloid Accumulation, Mol Psychiatry. Jul, 2016 21(7): 910-915. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5811225/
[xxiv] Samantha Budd Haeberlein, Why This Scientist is Hopeful a Cure to Alzheimer’s Disease Isn’t Far Off, Time Magazine, Jan. 4, 2018, http://time.com/5087364/scientist-hopeful-cure-to-alzheimers-disease-isnt-far-off/
[xxv] Joel Fuhrman, M.D. as stated in iThrive! Rising From the Depths of Diabetes & Obesity, 9 part documentary series, Executive Producers:Jonathan Hunsaker, Jonathan McMahon, Michael Skye, 2017, iThrive Publishing LLC, https://go.ithriveseries.com/
[xxvi] Mike Stobbe, U.S. Life Expectancy Will Likely Decline for Third Straight Year, Associated Press, May 23, 2018 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-23/with-death-rate-up-us-life-expectancy-is-likely-down-again
[xxvii] Mark Hyman, M.D. Eat Fat, Get Thin, New York, New York: Little, Brown and Co., Hachette Book Group, 2016 pg. 20