Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is the hormone secreted by the pancreas that converts sugar and other foods into energy for the body. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or it can’t use the insulin it produces very well.
Diabetes is a common and serious disease in Louisiana. Since 1996, Louisiana has had the highest rate of death caused by diabetes. Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and amputations.
According to the 2005 Louisiana Health Report Card, in 2001, approximately 16 percent of Louisiana hospital discharges and 18 percent of the costs associated with these discharges were attributable to people of all ages with diabetes as the principal or secondary diagnosis. However, this cost estimate is based on only known cases of diabetes. Since about one third of all diabetics are undiagnosed, this statistic is likely an underestimate.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 results from the body’s failure to produce insulin and usually appears in children or young adults. Type 2 diabetes usually appears after age 40, when the body fails to properly use insulin. However, children who are overweight are also at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, which is most common among Americans.
People over the age of 45 who are obese, are physically inactive, are members of ethnic minorities and/or have a family history of diabetes are at greatest risk of contracting diabetes. Symptoms include frequent urination, fatigue, increased hunger, slow healing and blurred vision.
Diabetes can be prevented by adopting healthy eating habits and exercising regularly. For those affected by diabetes, taking self-management classes, monitoring blood glucose levels and getting vaccinations for both influenza and pneumonia are the best ways to ensure a quality life.