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Diabetes' Toll Continues to Grow
Date:3/21/2008

-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or online at www.diabetes.org/alert.

But the finding on Avandia calls into question the safety of the entire class of drugs known as thiazolidinediones. For now, Avandia -- and other thiazolidinediones such as Actos -- remains on the market. But last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated stricter labeling, including "black box" warnings, for the medications.

Medical experts recommend that each person discuss with their physician the risks and rewards of using Avandia.

"Every patient is different," said Kirkman. "Every patient has different risk factors. Every patient has reasons why one medicine might be better for them than another."

But medicines are only part of the solution. A better response would be drastic changes to American lifestyles, starting with improved diets and more exercise, to avoid type 2 diabetes in the first place.

"The statistics are pretty gloomy, but we also know people who are at risk for diabetes can do a lot to prevent it from coming on," Kirkman said. "There's a lot people can do to try and control their fate."

Diabetes comes in two types.

The most common form, type 2, or what used to be called adult-onset diabetes, occurs when either the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. The body needs insulin to transport sugar in the blood to cells for energy. Being overweight, an unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise are common contributors to this form of the disease.

Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and young adults, occurs when the body isn't capable of producing insulin.

Researchers reviewing data from the National Health Interview Survey found that from 1990 to 2005, cases of diabetes increased 4.6 percent each year. They rose from 26.4 cases per 1,000 people to 54.5 per 1,000 people in the most recent year available.

The diabetes epidemic
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