With Turkey Day mere hours away at this point, you’ve probably already got buttery mounds of mashed potatoes, savory stuffing, herb-basted turkey, and creamy pumpkin pie on the mind. Now, we love America’s most glutenous holiday as much as the next guy, but with November also being National Diabetes Awareness Month, we’ve got to level with you: America has a bit of a weight problem.
To run the numbers on this issue, we turned to WalletHub, who just recently released their 2017 round-up of America’s Fattest States, along with an interesting infographic breaking down some of the most surprising and interesting facts and statistics about diabetes in the United States. To say America is struggling with its weight is not to say our great nation has made no strides in obesity and diabetes research: the American Diabetes Association has invested nearly $800 million in research since 1952 (funding nearly 5,000 diabetes research projects during that time), the Joslin Diabetes Center enjoys a $40 million annual research fund, and the estimated funding for diabetes research from the National Institutes of Health in 2017 is over $1 billion. There are currently 351 federally funded scientists out there doing crucial research into diabetes causes, prevention, and treatment, and 99% of scientists funded by the ADA continue diabetes research for 5 or more years.
Still, even with so much great work from scientists, medical institutions, and other organizations, diabetes can seem somewhat abstract to those without any firsthand experience with the disease. On the surface, a quick shot of insulin, routine blood sugar checks, and settling for sugar-free candy doesn’t seem all that intrusive. You may even have friends or family members who appear to be managing their diabetes perfectly well, with no tangible adverse effects. The truth is, though, that diabetes is the third deadliest disease in the United States, reducing life expectancy by as many as 13 years and claiming over 80,000 American lives every year. Complications from diabetes can be varied and life-altering, with 1 in 3 diabetic adults suffering from chronic kidney disease, 1 in 200 diabetics eventually having a limb amputated, 60-70% of diabetes patients experiencing nerve damage, and 12% of new cases of blindness being attributable to the disease. Diabetes has ripple effects even for those who don’t suffer from it, too: 63% of diabetics’ family members express anxiety over complications from their loved ones’ illness.
So, what’s the point of us bombarding you with all of this scary information right as you’re busting out your stretchy Thanksgiving pants? Well, the fact is, America has been suffering from an obesity epidemic for a long time, and obesity is a leading contributor to diabetes. It’s especially easy to pack on a little “winter weight” during the holiday season, and all too often we never get around to shedding it once spring rolls back around. So this year, we’re sharing a little knowledge to help us all be a little more mindful around the holiday table. You may not be able to stop crazy Grandma Rose from launching into an out-dated (possibly racist) rant or keep your cousin’s unruly kids from destroying your house, but hopefully by educating yourself about the risk factors for diabetes, you can keep yourself a little healthier and happier.
Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for diabetes, with over 90% of type 2 diabetics being overweight or obese. High cholesterol, which 65% of adult diabetics suffer from, is another huge risk factor and often goes hand-in-hand with obesity. High blood pressure is similarly connected, effecting nearly 75% of adult diabetics. Tobacco use and a sedentary lifestyle can cultivate the disease as well, causing up to a 40% increase in risk of getting the disease. And if you’re thinking, “well, sure, couch potatoes might be at risk, but I go to the gym at least 4 times a year, so I’m cool,” you should know a couple more startling stats: 23.8% of Americans with diabetes may not even know they have it, and 1 in 3 U.S. adults already have “prediabetes.” You may also be a little surprised at where your home state ranks in WalletHub’s 20 Fattest States list for this year:
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- New Mexico
While taking it easy for one Turkey Day does not a diabetes prevention plan make, having these important albeit alarming numbers in mind while you’re gathered around this year’s holiday feasts will hopefully help to open your eyes to exactly how easy it is to fall into the many risk factors that can lead to a diabetes diagnosis. You can still do a little end-of-the-year indulging, but maybe think about foregoing a few of the more decadent treats and taking a few post-meal strolls this year, and don’t forget: the New Year is fast-approaching, so if you’ve fallen into some unhealthy traps, there’s no better time to throw things into reverse a form some new healthy habits. For the rest of WalletHub’s research, check out their 2017 Diabetes Facts infographic and read through the full results of their 2017 Fattest States in America study.