(SAVANNAH) November is Diabetes Awareness Month and educators who teach diabetics how to live with their disease say it’s a time to get more people to get tested to see if they’re one of hundreds of thousands of people who don’t know they have it. The American Diabetes Association reports in 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes. Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed, and 8.1 million have not been diagnosed. That population, with no idea they’re diabetic, is evident in the Coastal Empire according to St. Joseph/Candler Hospital Diabetes Educator, Pam Eling, MSN, RN. “This isn’t an old person’s disease. it’s happening to younger and younger people. I mean I see frequently anywhere from twenty to thirty to forty, ya’ know, year olds, coming in here with type two diabetes.” Eling said.
The costs associated with diabetes are staggering, totaling nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars according the ADA. In 2013, direct medical costs topped $176 million dollars. $69 billion dollars in lost productivity was reported in the same year, totaling more than $245 billion dollars. “Financially, it is an expensive disease.” said Eling. She says successful management of diabetes hinges on diet and exercise, but adds there’s myths about what diabetics can and can’t eat. “You can eat, pretty much everything that a normal person would eat, but it’s about the frequency that you’re eating and the portions.” Eling said.
Diabetes is not a death sentence and doesn’t have to diminish the quality of life for those living with the disease. Eling says physical activity and exercise is key to maintaining healthy blood sugars for diabetics. She says one without the other can be a recipe for failure in terms of preventing the many complications of diabetes. “Exercise is as important as your food choices, exercise and a healthy eating plan are the two mainstays of taking care of diabetes.” said Eling. Regular checks of blood sugars as well as doctor visits are also crucial to managing the disease.