Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

As a premed student I'm in the coolest class in the world: physiology. I sincerely apologize to all you who are unfortunate to not enjoy the glory that is the systems of the human body. Since we're at the end of the course, I've already had an introduction to the circulatory system, respiratory system, neurology, digestion, urinary, etc.

Right now we're studying endocrinology, and something struck a chord in me today in class (not many noticed, thank goodness). We were discussing the pancreas and diabetes and the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes mellitus. Type I is when a persons body doesn't produce insulin for one reason or another, and requires insulin injections in order for the individual to survive. Type II occurs when an individual's body becomes resistant to its own insulin, which can occur for myriad reasons, but one of most rising causes is obesity.

First of all, out of all North American cases of diabetes 90-95% of them are type II diabetes. Throughout the world it varies, of course, due to environmental and lifestyle differences, but obesity is a definite factor, along with less-active lifestyles, high cholesterol, etc. There are about 150 million people affected with diabetes in the world, and that number is expected to double by 2025. It's increase is so rapid that the CDC has labeled diabetes as an epidemic. And the thing about type II is that often (not always) it can be managed through exercise and modifying one's diet.

That got me to thinking. Because I'm Navajo, I researched into the prevalence of diabetes on the Navajo Nation, since heard so much of it growing up in reference to the Navajos, and found (here) that as of 1997 on the rez 22.9% of people over 20 years old have diabetes mellitus, 4 times higher than the U.S. estimate. That's almost one out of every 4 people! And even more shocking is that 70 years ago diabetes mellitus was considered a rare phenomenon among the Navajo Indians. The number may be higher considering that report was done over 10 years ago.

What I finally came up with is that I'd better start hitting the gym and getting back into shape. Already for years I've had to watch what I eat (sometimes with my eyes half-closed) because weight sticks to me more than my non-Navajo friends, but this news gives me more of an incentive to get into shape. Being in shape is one of those things that everybody would love to be, but it's seen as a luxury in some places. I think I've been of that sentiment lately because of school and work and general socializing, but I'm thinking that my priorities need to shift a bit. I'll post a pick when I look like this guy.

Haha. Or not.


courtney said...

well. congratulations on your blog..? I don't think you should be so worried about peer pressure, I think it's just a wonderful way to keep in contact with people who don't live with you! so do it for the family!

Greg said...

In my opinion, the rise of DM is a social and even a cultural one. Most people have a tendency to develop DM if the environment is correct, ie overeating starches and sugar while being sedentary. In the old days it was considered a mark of success to be fat ("Fat Cat"). Nowadays, poor people cannot afford complex carb and protein diets. Economics forces them into starchey diets. The culture on the rez (barrio, hood, slum...) does not encourage fitness/exercise. There you go.

Poppa Doc

courtney said...

I've heard from friends who live in St. Johns, AZ that playing basketball is huge with the navajo kids on the rez. That's something, right? Ironically, Nate and I have a problem with out diets due to money as well, but here's a third factor; time. ramen is what we're all about. well, it will be what we're all about when i don't have time to cook the oven baked fried chicken, whole grain fried rice, and green beans that i'm eating right now. But working single moms don't have the time either.

msa said...

It's amazing what I have found this evening by goggling "navajos". I came across your blog entry concerning T2DM. I am a podiatric medical student and have seen one TMA (transverse metatarsal amputation) done on a Navajo diabetic patient while shadowing in Shiprock, NM. Though I also watched other lower extremity surgeries that day, the TMA affected me the most. BTW, I am also Navajo. I hope to return to the Rez to work there when I am done. Keep up the writing.

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