November Is National Diabetes Awareness Month
Diabetes is on the rise in Missouri, but many people with the disease don't know they have it. Educating people about the disease is the goal of National Diabetes Awareness Month, observed annually in November.
Nearly 415,000 adults in Missouri – nine percent of the population aged 18 or older – have been diagnosed with diabetes. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, about one quarter of all people with the disease are unaware of their condition. That means thousands of Missourians of all ages are not protecting themselves from the dangers of diabetes.
"Diabetes is a life-threatening illness that can lead to many serious conditions including kidney failure, blindness, amputations, cardiovascular disease, and death due to flu and pneumonia complications," said Glenn Studebaker, program coordinator for the department's Diabetes Prevention and Control Program. "Because diabetes is increasing, it is more important than ever to learn about the disease and how to control it."
Missouri has seen a 19 percent increase in diabetes since 2000, based on estimates from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The growth in diabetes rates mirrors increases in obesity rates and the fact that the overall population is becoming older as large numbers of baby boomers are entering higher risk age brackets.
Some people with diabetes will not experience any symptoms while others will have one or more of the following:
* Frequent urination
* Excessive thirst
* Unexplained weight loss
* Extreme hunger
* Sudden vision changes
* Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
* Feeling tired much of the time
* Very dry skin
* Sores that are slow to heal
* More infections than usual
Diabetes is a chronic disease of the endocrine system that results in high blood glucose levels. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, formerly known as insulin dependent or juvenile onset diabetes; type 2, formerly known as non-insulin dependent or adult onset diabetes; and gestational diabetes, which develops in up to four percent of all pregnant women and increases the risk of later developing type 2 diabetes.
There are no known methods to prevent type 1 diabetes. Most people with diabetes have type 2, which often can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes, including eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and participating in daily physical exercise. Because studies show a dramatic link between diabetes and heart disease, avoiding tobacco use and taking medications as prescribed are also important for controlling blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
People with diabetes should get an A1C test two to four times a year. The test measures a person's average blood glucose level during a 90-day period. A physician will determine the frequency of this test based on how well a person controls their diabetes. Individuals with diabetes should also get a flu shot, a comprehensive foot exam and a dilated eye exam every year. In addition, they should get at least one pneumococcal immunization to help prevent pneumonia.
"Lifestyle choices are critical to treating and living with diabetes," Studebaker said. "With proper management, many serious complications can be avoided or detected early, and people can live longer and healthier lives, but it all starts with knowing your status. Anyone who is overweight, has high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes, or is experiencing any of the symptoms listed previously should ask their healthcare provider about being tested for diabetes."