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Type 2 diabetes seen as epidemic but manageable

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The risk factors for diabetes are well-known, and preventive methods have been shown to work, so responsibility for managing the disease rests largely on patients, according to health-care officials.

Seven percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. And while type 2 diabetes is considered an epidemic by most medical officials, prevention and management of the disease is possible.

Dana Clarke, a specialist at the Utah Diabetes Center, said that healthy living begins with knowing family history, monitoring food intake and regular activity.

By disregarding these "simple" steps, the damage from diabetes to the body can be devastating. Blindness, heart attack, stroke and the amputation of extremities are possible outcomes when diabetes is not monitored or is ignored.

"The good news is we have the tools for educated and motivated people to help manage their diabetes," Clarke said. "Not just day to day, but for decades and ultimately a lifetime of healthy living."

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and is a result of the body not producing enough insulin, or cells in the body ignoring the insulin produced. Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which the body does not produce insulin, it is possible to prevent type 2 diabetes with healthy habits and regular observation.

In 2005, the American Diabetes Association reported that 9.6 percent of people between the ages of 20 and 60 had diabetes. In age groups above 60, 20.9 percent of individuals had diabetes. Ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of diagnoses for diabetes than whites, according to the study.

Clarke recommended that people pay particular attention to their weight and blood pressure, because they are often precursors to a diagnosis of prediabetes. Typically there is more than one factor that leads to diabetes, such as cardiovascular health, genetics and dietary habits. While these are not all under an individual's immediate control, steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of diagnoses.

"More important than anything is for those prone from a family history for diabetes to know. Intervention is prevention at young ages," Clarke said. "And I don't think we're doing that."

E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com