The real cost of diabetes runs deep

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by Peggy Tschauner

The recent grant of $2.5 million to Henry, Shelby and Bullitt Counties has shone a light on the problem of diabetes in our area. These counties have a multi-million dollar grant over the next few years because they have a significantly higher incidence of diabetes. That may seem like a huge amount, until you recognize that the cost of medical care and lost productivity for diabetes in Kentucky is more than $2 billion annually.

Diabetes is a complex disease. In a healthy person, the pancreas secretes insulin to help use and store the sugar from your diet. In type I diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce insulin. This must be managed by injecting insulin. With type II diabetes there is not enough insulin produced for the amount of sugar consumed, or the body doesn’t respond appropriately to the insulin released. Type II diabetes doesn’t just suddenly appear.  It is a result of years of abuse to our bodies. Those are strong words, but true.

Many feel that diabetes is just a fact of life but Type II diabetes, the most common type, often can be prevented. There is a genetic predisposition, meaning diabetes tends to run in families. Anyone with a family history of type II diabetes should be very aware of the risk factors and work on controlling them and reducing their risk of developing diabetes. Two factors that cannot be controlled are age and ethnicity. The risk of developing diabetes increases after age 45, and significantly increases after age 65. In recent years there has been a rise in adolescent diabetes due to sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy nutrition among children. At any age, preventive tactics become more important. Also, choosing your parents can reduce your risk (if only you could choose your parents!).  African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic and Japanese Americans are at higher risk for diabetes than caucasians.

Risk factors that can be controlled include: obesity/overweight, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, high fat diet, high alcohol intake, gestational diabetes, or giving birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds. Most of these risk factors can be addressed through healthy nutrition and physical activity.  If left unattended, these factors can lead to diabetes, which increases your risk for heart disease, blindness, stroke and other complications.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives steps for controlling diabetes.
• Know your ABC’s of diabetes – A1C, Blood pressure and Cholesterol
• Check your blood pressure daily as recommended
• Get regular medical care & enlist the support of family and friends
• Be active every day to help regulate insulin and lose weight if needed
• Follow your doctor’s medication and nutritional recommendations
• Stop smoking
• Manage stress

For more information contact: National Diabetes Education Program 800-438-5383, or visit their website at www.ndep.nih.gov.

Knowing your risk, preventing the onset of diabetes and managing the disease if diagnosed, are key to a long, healthy life.  Can you imagine how much fun we could have with those millions of dollars if there were no problems with diabetes?