11/04/10 Diabetes is a deadly disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are approximately 24 million Americans living with diabetes, of whom almost 6 million are undiagnosed.  In Indiana, an estimated 600,000 Hoosiers are living with this disease and it is the seventh leading cause of death in the state.

State health officials say if these trends continue it is expected that one third of children born today will face diabetes in their future.  However, there are steps Hoosiers can take to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and its complications.  The Indiana State Department of Health has partnered with the National Diabetes Education Program to encourage Hoosiers to learn their family’s history of diabetes.

“Knowing your family’s health history can help towards preventing or delaying the development of diabetes,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D.  “Many people who develop type 2 diabetes have one or more family members with the disease, so it’s important to know your family’s diabetes health history and to share that information with your health provider.

“You can’t change your family history, but knowing about it can help you work with your health care team to take action on the things you can change,” said Dr. Larkin.  “We encourage everyone to talk with their family members to find out if any close relatives, such as a mother, father, or sibling have had diabetes. This is important information to share with your doctor.”

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, the following steps can help prevent the future complications of this disease:

  • Get your eyes checked every year.  Diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults as it affects the blood vessels in eyes.  Identifying eye problems and treating them early can reduce risk and help save sight.
  • See your dentist at least once every six months.  People with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums because of high blood glucose.  Daily care of teeth and gums can help keep them healthy and prevent dental infections, a serious condition which can cause your blood glucose to go up even more.  Regular dental care helps prevent dental disease.
  • Check feet every day.  The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for those without diabetes.  Diabetes can cause poor circulation and nerve damage in the lower legs, making them more prone to infections.  By checking feet daily with a mirror, and having doctors check any sores or calluses, people can avoid infections that could lead to complications.
  • Protect kidneys.  Diabetes can cause kidney disease by damaging areas of the kidneys that filter out waste. This can lead to kidney failure.  To help safeguard your kidneys, ask your doctor to test your microalbumin level every year.  Also ask your doctor about taking an “ACE Inhibitor” or “ARB” medication, which can protect kidneys and lower blood pressure.

These small steps can go a long way towards living a healthier life.  For additional diabetes resources, visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program website at www.diabetes.IN.gov, or the National Diabetes Education Program website at www.ndep.nih.gov.