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FOR RELEASE: March 16, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Sound the Diabetes Alert!

Sound the diabetes alert! The Oklahoma State Department of Health and the American Diabetes Association urge Oklahomans to discover their risk for a silent disease that causes devastating complications, such as blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and amputations.

"With the increasing number of people over the age of 50 and one-third of America's adult population overweight, the number of people at-risk for diabetes is increasing, particularly among baby boomers and the elderly," says State Health Commissioner J.R. Nida, M.D.

Diabetes affects approximately 201,000 Oklahomans and more than 1,800 people die from diabetes each year in Oklahoma. Although diabetes and its complications occur among Americans of all ages and racial and ethnic groups, the burden of this disease is higher among elderly Americans and certain racial and ethnic groups such as African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos.

"Already, ethnic minorities and the elderly are more likely to be affected by diabetes, and as our society gets older and more overweight, the need to increase awareness about risk factors is extremely important. We need to do something now before diabetes becomes a bigger public health issue," said Nida.

Nida explained that when someone has diabetes, something goes wrong and the body can't get blood glucose into the cells. As a result, the body doesn't get the fuel it needs and blood sugar stays too high. "Although your blood sugar can be high, you can still feel fine, because diabetes is silent. You can have diabetes for years and have no symptoms such as extreme thirst, blurry vision, frequent urination, unusual tiredness and unexplained weight loss," he said.

"Being overweight decreases the body's ability to use insulin, causing a condition known as insulin resistance. This condition can lead to diabetes. When an overweight person loses weight, insulin resistance and the risk of developing diabetes decreases," Nida cautioned.

Since 1958, the rate of people diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. has tripled. Diabetes costs Oklahoma nearly $180 million each year in health care and related costs for treatment and lost productivity. "No price can be put on the devastation diabetes causes to the thousands who suffer from its complications," Nida said. "There is no cure for diabetes, but proper treatment and management can control blood glucose (sugar) levels and help prevent or delay diabetes-related complications."

For more information about diabetes, contact your health care provider, County Health Department, the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-342-2383, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation at 1-800-JDF-CURE, or the Chronic Disease Service at 1-888-669-5934.


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