The Diabetes Epidemic: An Inside View

Approximately 762,000 Pennsylvania adults have been diagnosed with diabetes. What’s going on and why is diabetes so prevalent?

According to Harrisburg-area endocrinologist Wilfred Victorina, MD, “The increase in obesity goes hand-in-hand with an increase in diabetes—so much so, that the combination of overweight and diabetes has been called ‘diabesity.’”

Key factors in the development of the condition are lack of physical activity, weight gain and genetics (family history). The bottom line is that it’s a disease of the pancreas where the insulin producing cells cannot keep up with the body’s demand and need for insulin.”

Dr. Victorina says there are many factors that contribute to the increased incidence of diabetes: “We’re doing a better job of screening for and diagnosing diabetes. But we’re also seeing a more sedentary society, young and old, whose lack of activity impacts their bodies’ ability to use the insulin their body produces. We used to buy tricycles for kids. Now we buy kiddie cars with motors.”

He also explains that the more overweight and inactive we are, the more difficult it is for insulin to do its work in the body, a condition called insulin resistance. Eventually, we need even more insulin to help glucose (blood sugar) enter cells to be used for energy. The pancreas tries to keep up with this increased demand by producing more insulin and, over time, it fails. Excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream resulting in diabetes.

“It’s like trying to drive your car with the brakes on. You’ll eventually reach 50 mph, but you’ll wear out your machine trying to do it.”