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FOR RELEASE: November 2, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Diabetes Takes a Toll on Oklahomans

As many as 320,000 Oklahomans have diabetes – and nearly half of those persons do not know they have the disease. Uncontrolled diabetes can increase the chances of developing eye disease, kidney failure, heart disease, nerve damage, and stroke. The annual economic cost of diabetes in Oklahoma is nearly $180 million.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a month-long campaign conducted by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and other groups to emphasize the important message that diabetes is serious, common, costly, and yet, controllable.

“Diabetes affects the way your body uses food for energy,” said Myrna Page, coordinator of the Oklahoma State Department of Health's Diabetes Control and Prevention Program. “Normally, the body turns food into sugar that is distributed to the cells of the body for energy. Turning food into energy is very important, because the body requires food to perform daily activities such as thinking, walking, and running.

“When you have diabetes, something goes wrong and the body cannot get the sugar it needs into the cells of the body. As a result, the body does not get the fuel necessary for activities and blood sugar stays too high,” Page explained.

Although your blood sugar may be high, you can still feel fine, because diabetes may show no symptoms. There are some warning signs, however, which you may notice, including the following: unusual thirst and hunger; frequent urination; unusual weight loss; blurred vision; and recurring skin, gum, yeast or bladder infections. “If you experience any of these warning signs, talk to your doctor about getting tested for diabetes,” Page urged.

Oklahomans who are more likely to develop diabetes include:

  • those with a parent, brother, or sister who has or had diabetes;
  • overweight individuals;
  • Oklahomans who do not exercise regularly;
  • African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans or Native Americans;
  • Oklahomans over the age of 45; and
  • women who had gestational diabetes.

“If you belong to any of these groups, talk to your doctor about getting tested for diabetes,” said Page. “Finding out that you have diabetes and controlling it early can prevent health problems later on.”

The number one goal of diabetes control is to monitor blood sugar levels. There are many ways this can be done. People with diabetes should:

  • test their blood sugar daily;
  • maintain a healthy diet;
  • get regular exercise;
  • take their medications as indicated by their doctor; and
  • talk to their doctor about a treatment plan that's best for them.

For more information about diabetes, contact your health care provider; county health department; the American Diabetes Association, Tulsa Regional Office at 1-800-259-6552, Oklahoma City Regional Office at 1-800-259-6551; the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation at 1-800-JDF-CURE; or the Oklahoma State Department of Health's Chronic Disease Service at 1-888-669-5934.

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