West Virginia ranks the highest in the nation by percentage of population with diabetes. The prevalence for the disease has steadily increased over the years, not only in West Virginia, but the American Diabetes Association estimates nationally one in five health care dollars is spent on diabetic care.
Diabetes causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to increase higher than normal and over time, can affect many major organs if left untreated. Both the health and economic impact of diabetes are very real and, if current trends hold, are only going to get worse:
n Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates.
n The overall risk of death for people with diabetes is about double that for people without the disease.
n Diabetes costs more than $176 billion a year in direct costs—such as hospital inpatient care, medication and supplies and hospital visits—with another $69 billion in annual indirect costs like lost productivity.
n If current trends continue, one in three U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050.
Be aware, be proactive and be responsive when necessary. Nineteen million people in this country have been diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated seven million are unconsciously living with the disease. Education is the key to prevention.
It's time to rise up and offset the diabetes epidemic we are experiencing as a nation. Type 2 diabetes can be avoided or delayed through lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days.
For the 26 million Americans already affected by this disease, take responsibility for your health and work toward maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and controlling your blood glucose levels. If identified early, individuals who have diabetes can lead healthy, active lives.
Give the gift of good health this holiday season and schedule an appointment with your family physician to learn more.
Tadd Haynes, MPH
Haynes is director of Medicaid Operations for UniCare West Virginia