Diabetes Rates Alarmingly High In Tennessee

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Diabetes is a substantial health concern for Americans, especially Tennesseans. Tennessee and nine other mostly Southeastern states lead the nation in the rate of newly-diagnosed individuals with diabetes.

Nationwide, 7.8 percent of the population – 23.6 million people – has diabetes, but according to the Trust for America`s Health, that rate is higher in Tennessee with 10.6 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes. That translates into roughly half a million Tennesseans.

"Diabetes is on the rise nationwide, particularly in Tennessee. It`s growing at an alarming rate and the death rate for diabetes has continued to increase," said Dr. Cheryl Fassler, medical director for the Baptist Hospital Diabetes Center in Nashville. "While we know millions have been diagnosed with diabetes, there are still an additional 5.7 million Americans who are unaware they have it. That is why we need to continue to raise awareness about diabetes and its serious complications."


November is National Diabetes Month and is a time to bring attention to diabetes, including its risk factors, prevention and the importance of proper diabetes control.

Early diagnosis can help prevent many of the complications that result from diabetes. Unfortunately, people with type 2 diabetes can live for years without realizing they have the disease until significant damage is done to their eye sight, heart or kidneys. While people with diabetes can exhibit noticeable symptoms, such as frequent urination, blurred vision and excessive thirst, most people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes do not show these clear warning signs at the time they develop the disease. Often, type 2 diabetes only becomes evident when people develop one or more of its serious complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness or nerve damage that can lead to amputations.

"A simple fasting blood sugar screening is a good test," said Dr. Fassler. "Once the diagnosis is established, diet and exercise are the best ways to control diabetes. For others, medications may be necessary."

Pre-diabetes, a condition in which the blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, is also a concern. Approximately 57 million people are living with pre-diabetes. Screening for pre-diabetes is important because a change in diet and exercise can delay the onset of diabetes especially if it is caught early.

"We are continually surprised by the number of people who just don`t take advantage of diabetes screening," said Mary Gaines, director of Baptist Hospital`s Diabetes Center. "It is far better to be diagnosed than not. Diabetes can be managed and you can still live a long, healthy and happy life."