Judson Haims: Good new on diabetes is new cases have plateaued

Judson Haims
Special to The Aspen Times
Judson Haims
Courtesy photo

Chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and heart disease cost the U.S. about $3.8 trillion a year. While heart disease and cancer together cause about 1.5 million deaths, and cost the U.S. about $375 billion a year, diabetes is responsible for under 100,000 deaths and costs the U.S. about $237 billion.

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not producing enough insulin and therefore causes blood sugar levels to be high. When blood sugar cannot get into cells, it builds up in the bloodstream and damages the body. Type 1 diabetes affects about 5% of people with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is different. In type 2, the body loses its ability to respond to insulin. While it may develop in children, it most often occurs in middle-aged and older people. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the U.S. prevalence of diabetes of people between 8 and 79 years of age peaked in 2008-09 when there were about 1.7 million new cases per year. By 2017, cases of diagnosed diabetes declined to about 1.3 million new cases a year.

Determining the explanation for this decrease most likely lies in a combination of education from sources like the National Diabetes Prevention Program in addition to health awareness and changes in lifestyles.

Though diabetes affects many parts of the body including the heart, eyes, gums/teeth, kidneys and nerves, one part of the body that often is affected are the feet. Losing feeling and experiencing numbness in the feet often occurs over time. This is sometime the result of a condition called diabetic neuropathy.

One of the types of diabetic neuropathy is called peripheral neuropathy. This is the most common type and most often affects the feet and hands. Some of the symptoms include:

• Numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes

• A tingling or burning sensation

• Sharp pains or cramps

• Increased sensitivity to touch — for some people, even the weight of a bed sheet can be agonizing

• Muscle weakness

• Loss of reflexes, especially in the ankle

• Loss of balance and coordination

• Serious foot problems, such as ulcers, infections, deformities, and bone and joint pain

A diabetes diagnosis can be daunting, but a simple attitude adjustment can make a world of difference in how well you fare while living with the disease. By proactively taking steps to monitor key health indicators, experts agree that it’s possible to prevent some of the most severe risks of diabetes, including lower limb amputation.

Tips from the American Podiatric Medical Association: Inspect your feet daily, checking the entire foot and all 10 toes for cuts, bruises, sores or changes to the toenails, such as thickening or discoloration. Treat wounds immediately and see your podiatrist if a problem persists or infection is apparent.

Exercise by walking, which can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve circulation. Be sure to wear athletic shoes appropriate for the type of exercise you’re doing.

When you buy new shoes, have them properly measured and fitted. Foot size and shape can change over time, and ill-fitting shoes are a leading cause of foot pain and lesions. Certain types of shoes, socks and custom orthotics are available for people with diabetes, and they may be covered under Medicare. You can find a list of podiatrist-approved footwear and products for people with diabetes on the APMA website.

Keep your feet covered and never go barefoot even at home. The risk of cuts and infection is too great.

See a podiatrist to remove calluses, corns or warts — don’t tackle them yourself. Podiatrists are specially trained to address all aspects of foot health for people with diabetes. To learn more about foot care for people with diabetes or to find a podiatrist, visit

Get checkups twice a year. An exam by your medical provider is the best way to ensure you stay healthy. Talk with them about a diet plan and ask about consulting with a dietician. The best way to keep your blood glucose level under control is by developing a healthy eating plan.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at and 970-328-5526.