Guest column<br>Diabetes — disabling, deadly, and on the rise<br>

People with diabetes have a shortage of insulin or a decreased ability to use insulin, a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to enter cells and be converted to energy. When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in the blood and, over time, damages vital organs. Diabetes can cause heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, pregnancy complications, lower-extremity amputations, and deaths related to flu and pneumonia. Heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths, and death rates are about two to four times higher for adults with diabetes than for those without the disease.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 most often appears during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and physical inactivity, accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes cases and most often appears in people older than 40. However, it is now being found in younger people and is even being diagnosed among children and teens.

Diabetes has its greatest effects on older adults, women, and certain racial and ethnic groups. One in five adults over age 65 has diabetes. African American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native adults are two to three times more likely than white adults to have diabetes.

In addition to the millions of Americans with diabetes, an estimated 41 million U.S. adults aged 40–74 have prediabetes — that is, their blood sugar level is elevated but is not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes are at high risk for developing diabetes.

Cost of Diabetes in the United States, 2002

• Total (direct and indirect): $132 billion.

• Direct medical costs: $92 billion.

• Indirect costs (disability, work loss, premature death): $40 billion.

• Average annual health care costs for a person with diabetes: $13,243.

• Average annual health care costs for a person without diabetes: $2,560.

Diabetes is preventable and controllable. Although the increasing burden of diabetes and its complications is alarming, much of this burden could be prevented with early detection, improved delivery of care, and better education on diabetes self-management.

There are several organizations in this community who are committed to promoting early detection and better education on diabetes by collaborating to offer a free pre-diabetes screening this Saturday at the Health Care Center between 8:30 p.m. and noon. Stop by BEFORE eating breakfast for a simple finger stick to screen for this deadly disease. Dr. David McGarey will also be on hand to provide Diabetic Eye Screening. Together we can and must do more to prevent and control this growing epidemic of diabetes.

(Free screening is made possible by Williams Health Care Center, Williams Diabetic Support Group, Dr. David McGarey, Williams Lions Club and Wal-Mart-Flagstaff.)

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