It was reported on the NBC Today Show that type 2 diabetes is on the rise worldwide – the number of adults suffering from the disease has doubled since 1980, and will double again by 2030. Why the uptick? Anchor Natalie Morales attributed the increase to “weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle.” There’s only one problem: It’s not true.
As the Associated Press story on the Today Show’s own website explained, “the projected future rise in diabetes cases was because of aging rather than the obesity epidemic.” Yet the aging of populations around the world was not mentioned in Morales’ report, despite the fact that the older you get the greater your chances of contracting the disease.
Working to curb diabetes is extremely important, as the disease leads to a marked decrease in quality of life: as the National Institute on Aging notes, “it can cause problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that may lead to amputation.” It also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Better understanding the underlying causes of aging – and how we can control them – will help us combat the onset of diabetes and most other chronic age-related diseases. While improved diet and physical activity can reduce diabetes risk factors, to get at the basic drivers of diseases of aging, including type II diabetes, we need an all-out scientific effort to decelerate aging as the leading risk for chronic disease and disability. More research (and more funding) will lead to potent interventions against diabetes and other diseases. But first the media and opinion leaders need to recognize the real enemy: it’s aging itself.