Study: A Better Neighborhood Could Improve Health
Moving from a low-income neighborhood to a better-off one could lower your risk of diabetes and obesity, a new study suggests. Researchers tracked low-income residents in five major cities for 10 to 15 years. Those given a housing voucher subsidy to move to a better neighborhood were 19 percent less likely to have a BMI of at least 40, defined as morbid obesity, and 22 percent less likely to develop diabetes during the study period than those who remained in public housing. Findings were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. One explanation for the connection, the study authors say, is stress. Psychological stress caused by financial hardship or anxiety about physical safety could lead to weight gain and conditions like heart disease and diabetes. "This is one of the first studies to show that where you live—the circumstances of your neighborhood, the social characteristics of the people around you—all these things may play a role in your own health," said Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at the Yale School of Medicine who was not involved in the study, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Some environments are toxic to health."
Why Diabetes May Triple by 2050
The diabetes rate in the U.S. is poised to explode. As many as 1 in 3 adults will develop the chronic, life-threatening disease by 2050, a stark increase from the 1 in 10 presently affected, according to estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010. If current trends continue, the number of new cases could jump from 8 per every 1,000 people in 2008 to 15 per every 1,000 within the next 40 years.
"It's alarming," says Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. "People have to remember that once you have diabetes, you can't give it back."
The rising incidence of type 2 diabetes—much more prevalent than type 1—is fueling the trend, researchers say. Type 2 occurs when the body does not respond to or produce enough insulin, and though genetics play a role, excess weight and inactivity both increase the risk. Complications include heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage.
Here are three other factors that researchers believe will propel the numbers:
1. The "age wave." The number of adults ages 65 and older is expected to climb from 38.7 million in 2008 to 88.5 million by 2050, and older adults are more likely to develop diabetes than are younger adults. The body's ability to use and produce insulin gradually declines around age 45, Albright says. But type 2 diabetes is also on the rise in younger people, particularly among adolescents, a group rarely affected in the past. Lifestyle factors, like obesity and a lack of exercise, are likely to blame. [Read more: Why Diabetes May Triple by 2050.]
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6 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Diabetes
There are many mistaken beliefs about diabetes, U.S. News reported in 2010. Sue McLaughlin, former president of healthcare and education at the American Diabetes Association, offered her opinion of what she says are the six most common myths and misconceptions about diabetes, based on an ADA survey of more than 2,000 Americans released in 2009.
Myth 1: Diabetes is not that serious. In fact, diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined, McLaughlin says. Still, people with type 2 diabetes—the most common form of the disease—may go a long while, even years, before being diagnosed because they may downplay their symptoms or write them off to other causes. So if you are making frequent trips to the bathroom at night; experience extreme thirst, overwhelming fatigue, or blurry vision; or notice that you keep getting infections, ask your doctor to test you for diabetes. An early diagnosis can help ward off complications.
Myth 2: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes. "Certainly, anybody will benefit from eating less sugar ... because it is not a nutrient-dense ingredient," McLaughlin says. That said, simply eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes. [Read more: 6 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Diabetes.]
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