2007_1_health_candy.jpgAlways trendsetters, it seems that New Yorkers are outpacing the rest of the nation when it comes to diabetes. A study released by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene yesterday revealed that one in eight New York City adults is afflicted by the illness with nearly as one third of that group unaware of it. In addition, more than half who know they have diabetes, are not controlling their blood sugar levels enough.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the city health commissioner, says that the findings are not all that shocking considering that diabetes (at least the more common Type 2 version) is more prevalent among minorities and New York City is a mostly minority city. One surprising trend though was that more than half of New Yorkers hailing from the Indian subcontinent have diabetes or pre-diabetes (abnormally high blood sugar that doesn't quite meet criteria for the full-blown disease but may lead to it). The findings are based on blood samples obtained from a representative citywide sample in 2004. Overall, 700,000, or 12.5% of, New Yorkers are diabetic while nationally the rate is 10.3%.

Diabetes basically entails either a lack of the hormone insulin (Type 1) or a resistance to its effects (Type 2). Insulin has several functions, the most important being the driving of glucose into organs and out of the blood stream. Excess sugar levels in the blood can be toxic to nerves and other organs and can lead to numbness, blindness, kidney failure, impotence, heart disease, and other forms of atherosclerosis. The Type 2 condition accounts for over 90% of cases and has been strongly linked to heredity, obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet. The early symptoms of diabetes include excessive urination, excessive hunger and thirst, and, ironically, weight loss. The full name, diabetes mellitus, arises from diabaínein, the Greek word for "passing through" - (pertaining to the increased urination) and mellitus, Latin for sweet (in reference to the supposed taste of the urine of diabetic patients).

Diabetes is of particular importance to public health officials as it is a silent disease that can have many dreadful outcomes and because the type 2 kind is very responsive to lifestyle alterations (i.e. dieting, exercising, losing weight).

For more information, check out the City DOH's diabetes page.