NEW MADRID - Seventeen million people in the United States have diabetes. While an estimated 11.1 million are diagnosed, 5.9 million people are not even aware they have the disease. And those who do, don't always monitor their diabetes as they should, resulting in heart attack and stroke, the leading killers of diabetics.
That worries Sherry Aden, especially knowing too many of those individuals live in New Madrid County.
"In New Madrid County over 1,000 people are currently diagnosed with diabetes," noted Aden, registered dietitian and licensed dietitian at the New Madrid County Health Department. "It is estimated that another five percent remain undiagnosed."
The New Madrid County Health Department has teamed up with the National Diabetes Education Program and the American Diabetes Association in an effort to inform the public about the importance of good diabetes management and to emphasize that it entails more than lowering blood glucose. Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol also is vital.
"New Madrid County was chosen by the State Health Department as one of several health departments to help launch the statewide awareness campaign as part of a grant with the Bureau of Chronic Disease Control. Diabetes is not just a New Madrid County health issue," Aden said.
The new campaign comes in response to new studies that show a dramatic link between diabetes and heart disease. It found that people with diabetes can live longer and healthier lives with relatively small improvements in controlling blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
She said the goals of this campaign are to educate the general public to the signs and symptoms of diabetes so that the undiagnosed will seek medical care. The campaign also serves to refresh the memories of those dealing with diabetes to take care of themselves, follow up with healthcare visits and stay current on treatment options.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy required for daily life. Although the cause of diabetes is currently unknown, it is believed both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise play roles.
There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease in which the body does not produce insulin, most often occurring in children and young adults. People with Type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5-10 percent of diabetes.
Type 2 is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body's inability to make enough, or properly use insulin. The most common form of the disease, Type 2 diabetes makes up 90-95 percent of diabetes. According to reports, Type 2 diabetes is nearing epidemic proportions due to an increased number of older Americans and a greater prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
"Both lifestyle factors are present within New Madrid County," Aden said. "County residents, like people all over the U.S., are gaining weight younger and putting on more weight. Add to this the effect of doing less physical labor both in the work they do for a living and in the chores associated with raising children and housekeeping as well as leisure activities. Now, the cordless phone and remote sit right next to the couch with the soda and snacks. Clothes are moved from the washer to the dryer, no walking outside to the clothesline. Our lives are easier, we don't work as physically hard as past generations."
Eating habits haven't been changed either, she pointed out. The types of food chosen still include those with plenty of meat and fat. Individuals also choose smaller servings and fewer fruits and vegetables are eaten.
The New Madrid County Health Department urges all diabetics to become familiar with the ABCs of diabetes, which stands for A1C or hemoglobin test which measures the average blood glucose over the last three months, blood pressure and cholesterol.
This approach, Aden explained, was developed because the majority of individuals with diabetes don't know about their high risk of cardiovascular disease. She pointed out that research indicates 75 percent of people with diabetics die from heart disease and stroke and often die younger.
To help further raise awareness of the symptoms of diabetes, two billboards have been placed along I-55 in New Madrid and Pemiscot counties.
Also, a new brochure for diabetics which includes a wallet card to help them track their ABC numbers is available from the NDEP and ADA by calling 1-800-438-5383, going to NDEP's Web site http:/ndep.nih.gov, contacting the ADA at 1-800-342-2383 or visiting www.diabetes.org/makethelink
"Diabetes can be prevented," Aden stressed. "Watch your weight, get help if you have problems maintaining a healthy weight. Weight loss can be a tremendous tool in reducing the amount of medication that you need to take. A small weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds can be significant. But never discontinue your medication without first consulting your doctor. If you re not physically active, get started. Physical activity helps control weight, exercises your heart to keep it in shape, relieves stress, lowers your blood pressure and just makes you feel better."
For more information contact the New Madrid County Health Department at 573-748-5541 or 1-800-870-5441.
* Diabetes is the fifth deadliest disease in the United States. In 1999, it contributed to almost 210,000 deaths.
* Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two to four times higher than adults without diabetes.
* The risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes.
* Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults 20-74 years old.
* Diabetes is the leading cause of treated end-stage renal disease, accounting for 43 percent of new cases.
* In 1999, a total of 114,478 people with diabetes underwent dialysis or kidney transplantation.
* About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage. The results of such damage include impaired sensation or pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion of food in the stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome and other nerve problems.
* More than 60 percent of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations in the United States occur among people with diabetes.
* Periodontal or gum diseases are more common among people with diabetes than among people without diabetes.
* Poorly controlled diabetes before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause major birth defects in 5 to 10 percent of pregnancies and spontaneous abortions in 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies. Poorly controlled diabetes during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy can result in excessively large babies, posing a risk to the mother and child.
* People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses and once they acquire these illnesses, often have a worse prognosis than people without diabetes. For example, they are more likely to die with pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.
* Diabetes is one of the most costly health problems in America. Health care and other costs directly related to diabetes treatment, as well as the costs of lost productivity, run $98 billion annually.
* Those at greater risk for Type 1 diabetes include siblings of people with Type 1 diabetes and children of parents with Type 1 diabetes.
* Those at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes are people over age 45, those with a family history of diabetes, are overweight, don't exercise regularly, have low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides and certain racial and ethnic groups such as African Americans, Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Also at risk are women who had gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes occurring in 2-5 percent of all pregnancies, or who have had a baby weighing nine pounds or more at birth.