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On the Coast Magazine

Hope Makes His World Go Around

03/04/2013 09:20AM ● Published by Brian O

The World Guy

It is not every day that one gets to see the world roll by. Sure, locals here On The Coast occasionally hear about big-name celebrities visiting and their ownership of vacation homes in the area. Our annual visitors come from all over the world to see the area’s unsurpassed beauty. Recently however, we were fortunate to have the world pass through here! Yes, the entire world… figuratively, that is.

Erik Bendl, otherwise known as “The World Guy,” recently walked from one end of our coastal area to the other - literally! This 50-year-old man and his traveling companion Nice the Dog walk for diabetes awareness, pushing a six-foot diameter canvas-covered balloon representing the world along with them. Erik started walking in 2007 and has crossed over 6,000 miles in 39 different states plus Washington, DC. (You can follow his steps along the way on his blog www.worldguy.org.)

“Why?” you ask. Erik has witnessed the sorrow and loss suffered at the hands of the debilitating disease of diabetes. Having lost both his mother and brother-in-law in their 50s, he knows firsthand the shortened lifespan and pain this sickness afflicts upon its victims. Bendl also has an uncle, now in his 80s, who was diagnosed with the disease but is managing it and has lived to meet his grandchildren.

The World Guy walks and pushes the world balloon with him for two very good reasons: one, he passionately believes that beating type 2 diabetes can be accomplished by taking small steps each day, and two, diabetes is not just a U.S. health concern - it affects more than 371 million people worldwide according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) (www.idf.org). In addition, according to www.diabetes.org, the U.S. has the third largest number of confirmed diabetes cases in the world - 17.9 million. Undiagnosed cases add another 5.7 million, and expenses to fight the disease are over $220 billion a year and rising. The Center for Disease Control attributes one in 10 U.S. adults has type 2 diabetes and projects that if trends continue, one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. But it’s not just adults – sadly, one in 400 to 600 American children has type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, IDF estimates show that 187 million are yet to be diagnosed worldwide. “The high number of undiagnosed diabetes cases means that millions of people are at risk of costly and debilitating diabetes complications, including nerve and kidney disease. Previous estimates from the IDF Diabetes Atlas in 2011 put the number of people with diabetes at 366 million and number of deaths at four million. The 2012 figures show that the upward trend will continue. By the end of the year, 4.8 million people will have died from diabetes-related complications. Half of these deaths will be in people under the age of 60.”

Dr. Larry Deeb, former president of the American Diabetes Association, consultant to the IDF and the Florida Department of Health, and currently a world-renowned pediatric endocrinologist out of Tallahassee leading the research for growth hormones in children, is also on an inspirational mission. He has recently been hired by the Chinese government to lead a five-year teaching seminar on the causes, effects and help towards battling this “silent epidemic,” whose annual reported diabetes-related deaths worldwide, 3.2 million, are equivalent to that of HIV/AIDS-related deaths. China, with 92 million diabetics, has overtaken India (with 80 million) as the world leader in diabetes cases and is taking the initiative to actively seek to decrease the number of cases and improve the country’s overall health.

There are things you can do as well. Study after study shows that a “healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes” (www.who.int). Set exercise goals and stick to them. Start a food journal and pay more attention to the fatty/sugary foods you are putting into your body. Control your portion size. Follow the lead of World Guy and go for a walk! After all, we have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches to walk along day after day. There is still time to make a difference and a lifetime of sunrises and sunsets to enjoy as you walk. As Erik says, “That’s a good reason for anybody to be inspired.”

Diabetes defined by the World Health Organization (www.who.int)

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.
Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
Symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen.
Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children.
What are common consequences of diabetes?
Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
• Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease (primarily heart disease and stroke).
• Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation.
• Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness, and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. After 15 years of diabetes, approximately 2% of people become blind, and about 10% develop severe visual impairment.
• Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure. 10-20% of people with diabetes die of kidney failure.
• Diabetic neuropathy is damage to the nerves as a result of diabetes, and affects up to 50% of people with diabetes. Although many different problems can occur as a result of diabetic neuropathy, common symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet and hands.
• The overall risk of dying among people with diabetes is at least double the risk of their peers without diabetes.

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