In an effort to educate myself on health and wellness, I’ve been plowing through a small library of nutrition, medical, and fitness books. I’ve been alarmed to learned that a full-scale epidemic is upon us, and there’s an opportunity – or a mandate – to use technology to fight it. My humble plan to build fitness apps like Power 20 is taking a dramatic turn towards fighting the epidemic of diabetes.
Diabetes is everywhere.
Today, at least one in three Americans is diabetic or prediabetic. At the current rate of growth, half of all people born after 2000 will become diabetic. Half of all South Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics in the US are either diabetic or prediabetic. This is a global epidemic, too. In September 2011, 366 million people in the world had diabetes. That number is predicted to grow to 552 million by the year 2030. It’s growing fastest in the poorest countries.
It’s a vicious disease.
The more prevalent “Type 2” diabetes is defined by insulin resistance. You can become insulin resistant when you consume too much sugar (sweets, carbs, sodas, juices) or become overweight. Insulin insensitivity means an important hormone called insulin doesn’t do its job of channeling sugar from your blood into your brain and muscles. Instead of becoming a source of energy in your tissues, the sugar stays in the blood. That sugar quickly turns to fat. Diabetics therefore have less energy, crave sugar, and can put on weight fast.
Getting fat is just the beginning (and not all diabetics are fat). All that excess sugar wreaks havoc in your body, causing blood vessels to harden. It also causes scary neurological damage, so you lose feeling in your hands and feet. This neuropathy leads to amputations and blindness. Most of the time, though, diabetes kills you through heart disease. 80% of diabetics die of coronary heart disease or stroke, and they have those heart attacks and strokes 10 years sooner than non-diabetics. For South Asians, these strike 15 – 20 years sooner, which is why we see so many Indians having heart attacks in their 30s and 40s.
This battle is winnable.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and even reversed by dramatically decreasing sugar (sweets, sodas, carbs, processed foods), and doing regular, vigorous exercise. The solution is simple, but correcting peoples’ habits and access to food is hard.
Armies of medical groups and not-for-profits are fighting the rise of diabetes. For the most part, they’re losing. As the creator of Power 20, a mobile fitness app that guides people through intense, 20-minute at-home workouts, it’s clear to me that I should build health apps for diabetics in particular. I need to partner with health organizations that address diabetes, and I need to bring diabetes specialists on board to make my products more effective.
If my product can delay or reverse the onset of diabetes, then I’ll be selling more than a nice-to-have. I’ll be selling a life-saver, and that’s probably as good for my soul as it is for my wallet. I’m so excited!