November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to recognize this widespread disease that can result in serious and debilitating complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation. In the United States, 24 million people or 7% of the population have diabetes. Another 57 million Americans, or 29% of the population, have pre-diabetes. The incidence of diabetes in North Carolina is especially high as North Carolina ranks tenth in the nation.
Diabetes is an expensive disease. One out of every five U.S. health care dollars is spent caring for individuals with diabetes. The total annual economic cost of diabetes in 2007 was estimated to be $174 billion. In fact, over the past five years, the cost has risen more than $8 billion each year.
The prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. is also rising. It has more than tripled over the past 25 years. The CDC estimates that every 21 seconds, someone in the US is diagnosed with diabetes. If things continue at this rate, 1 in 3 children born today will develop diabetes within their lifetime. Research has shown that obesity is the main reason for this increase.
Besides obesity, additional risk factors for diabetes include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Age over 45 years
- Family history of diabetes
- African American, Latina, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Island ethnicity
- Women who have delivered babies nine pounds or more at birth.
The good news in all this is that diabetes is a controllable disease. We can’t control our genetics, ethnicity or age, but we can control unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Complications are decreased when blood sugar control is managed through health eating and physical activity. Research has shown that for every 1% reduction in Hemoglobin A1C (A1c), the risk of developing eye, kidney, and nerve disease is reduced by 40%. The A1c is an estimate of average blood sugar over the previous three months. What this means is that if your average blood sugar is lowered by just 30 points, your chance of any potential complications is almost cut in half.
If you have diabetes, pre-diabetes or are even at high risk of developing diabetes, find a Registered Dietitian, preferably one who is a Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE). A CDE is a health care professional that teaches people with diabetes to manage their condition. Formal education, years of practical experience, and a Board Examination are required prior to becoming a CDE. RD/CDE’s will help you to learn the tools, skills and emotional support necessary to control blood sugar and decrease the risk of long term complications.
It’s Your Health. It’s Your Life. Make That change!