Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 23.6 million people in the United States -- or 7.8 percent of the population -- have diabetes, a serious, lifelong condition. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Diabetes is also associated with long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body. The disease often leads to blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage. Diabetes is also on the rise in kids, as a result of obesity.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of Fox Network's "The Dr. Oz Show," is passionate about this public health crisis. He appeared on "The Early Show" Wednesday from Washington, D.C., where he is the keynote speaker at the National Conference on Diabetes.
Dr. Oz said he estimates that 57 million more people than the American Diabetes Association statistics include are likely to have diabetes or be pre-diabetic.
Oz said, "The irony is the earlier you intervene and help folks, the better they'll do. It'll double the survival rates, but 90 percent of people don't realize it."
So how do you know if you have diabetes?
Oz said thirst, excess urination and weakness are factors, but another big factor is belly fat. "Your belly fat is what tells us if you're at high risk for being a Type II diabetic."
Oz gave a formula for learning if you're at risk: You take your height in inches and divide that in half. If your waist size is more than half your height, you're at higher risk for developing complications from belly fat. He said the leading complication is diabetes.
Oz said the formula works for men, women and children.
Oz also suggested these practical ways to combat diabetes:
• Include fiber with Breakfast - "Everyone knows breakfast is good for you to lose weight. But you need to have fiber in the breakfast. Doughnuts don't count. So a high-fiber cereal, a piece of fruit, that gets you there."
• Never eat on an empty stomach - "Hormonally, when you eat when you're really hungry and famished, you'll overeat, you'll overshoot. So you always want to have something, about a half an hour before a meal, a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, something light just to take away the edge, so when you eat, you don't overdo it. "
• Avoid white food - "White sugar, white flour, white pasta. In the body, these are all seen as simple carbohydrates, which are generally deposited as belly fat, as well as fat in other parts of the body."
• Build muscle - "Especially for women, when you go through menopause, you're ovaries don't stop making just estrogen, they stop making testosterone. Without testosterone, you stop making muscle; you get a little pooch in your belly. Make sure you have enough muscle, it burns several times more calories than fat will."
Oz said if you make these changes in your life, you can really turn the disease around.
He said 90 percent of people who are pre-diabetic can reverse their symptoms dramatically, and those with diabetes can actually reverse the disease by losing belly fat.
"That's why we have such a call to action today in Washington," he said. "We know that if folks recognize the ailment early enough -- and if you don't know you have it, you got to figure it out -- you'll have the ability to double your success rate and your survival rate."