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FOR RELEASE: December 18, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Diabetes is Seventh Leading Cause of Death for Oklahoma Women

Diabetes is a serious, common, costly, and controllable disease that may affect women throughout their lives. It was the 6th leading cause of death in the United States in 1998 for women, and the 7th leading cause of death in Oklahoma for women in 1998.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to allow blood sugar to enter the cells of the body for energy. When a woman has diabetes, the body cannot get blood sugar (glucose) into the body cells and as a result, blood sugar remains high. High blood sugar over a period of time can cause a variety of health problems such as the loss of a limb, nerve damage, kidney disease, blindness, and death.

The two major types of diabetes are: type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In the United States, 8.2 percent of women over the age of 20 years have diabetes. In Oklahoma, 8.1 percent of women over the age of 18 years have diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body does not produce insulin, and it occurs most often in children and young adults under the age of 30 years old. Women with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections to stay alive.

Type 2 diabetes occurs as a result of the body’s inability to properly use insulin developed by the body. It is the most common form of diabetes occurring in 90 percent to 95 percent of all cases.

Oklahoma women of minority racial and ethnic groups are more likely than Oklahoma white women to have type 2 diabetes. Also, Oklahoma women ages 65 and over are more likely than women under 65 years of age to have type 2 diabetes. Obesity, weight gain, and physical inactivity are the major changeable risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Heredity, which plays a part in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, cannot be changed.

Besides type 1 and type 2 diabetes, some women also experience the added burden of gestational diabetes during their lifetime. Gestational diabetes is unique to women because of its potential to affect the health of a mother and her unborn child. This condition may develop during the last half of pregnancy as a result of placental hormones causing the blood sugar to go too high. Gestational diabetes occurs in approximately 2 percent to 5 percent of all pregnancies, and usually goes away after the baby is born. Some of the complications of pregnancy that may affect a woman diagnosed with gestational diabetes include increased risk of infections, possible need for a Cesarean section, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, these women are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later on in life.

Although there is no cure for diabetes, the good news is that it can be controlled. Keeping blood sugar levels as close as possible to normal, taking medications as prescribed, maintaining a healthy meal plan, and getting regular physical activity can all help prevent or delay the complications associated with diabetes.

For more information about diabetes, contact your health care provider; county health department; the American Diabetes Association, Oklahoma City Regional Office at 1-800-259-6551; Tulsa Regional Office at 1-800-259-6552; or the Diabetes Control and Prevention Program at 1-888-669-5934.

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