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3.3: Disease Risk and Nutrition


Nutrition and Health Are Closely Related

Over the past century, essential nutrient deficiencies have dramatically decreased, many infectious diseases have been conquered, and the majority of the U.S. population can now anticipate a long and productive life. However, as infectious disease rates have dropped, the rates of noncommunicable diseases—specifically, chronic diet-related diseases—have risen, due in part to changes in lifestyle behaviors.

A history of poor eating and physical activity patterns have a cumulative effect and have contributed to significant nutrition- and physical activity-related health challenges that now face the U.S. population. About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. These include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health.

More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese. These high rates of overweight and obesity and chronic disease have persisted for more than two decades and come not only with increased health risks, but also at high cost. In 2008, the medical costs associated with obesity were estimated to be $147 billion. In 2012, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was$245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and$69 billion in decreased productivity.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is when the amount of glucose in your blood is above normal yet not high enough to be called diabetes. With prediabetes, your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are higher. With some weight loss and moderate physical activity, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. You can even return to normal glucose levels, possibly without taking any medicines.

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are:

• being very thirsty
• urinating often
• feeling very hungry
• feeling very tired
• losing weight without trying
• sores that heal slowly
• dry, itchy skin
• feelings of pins and needles in your feet
• losing feeling in your feet
• blurry eyesight

Some people with diabetes don’t have any of these signs or symptoms. The only way to know if you have diabetes is to have your doctor do a blood test.
Click here to see a Snapshot of Diabetes in the United States.

Contributors and Attributions

Public domain content

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This page titled 3.3: Disease Risk and Nutrition is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kelly Falcone.

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