As the public health officer, if I were asked to pick the one thing I believe threatens the health and well-being of Fresno County more than any other, it would be the raging diabetes epidemic.
Almost 10% of the U.S. population today (29 million people) has diabetes (this compared to just over 1% in 1958). Each year more than 200,000 deaths occur among people with diabetes in this country, and the illness costs the U.S. $245 billion annually.
More frightening is that almost half of Fresno County residents (49%) have pre-diabetes. Of these individuals nine out of 10 are unaware that they have pre-diabetes, 15-30% will develop diabetes within five years, and they are at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
Diabetes is another name for "high blood sugar." Every day, our bodies break down carbohydrates we eat into sugar (glucose). Some common foods high in carbohydrates are bread, pasta, tortillas, cereal, crackers, chips, potatoes, candy, and sugary drinks. A hormone produced in the pancreas, called insulin, helps the sugar in the blood move into the body's cells so it can be used for energy.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or when cells are unable to use insulin efficiently and the sugar stays in the blood. Diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputations.
The most common form is type 2 diabetes (90-95%), previously known as "adult onset" diabetes. Alarmingly, we can no longer call it that because an increasing number of younger people are developing type 2 diabetes. Risk of type 2 diabetes increases with excess weight, physical inactivity, family history of diabetes, having high blood glucose during pregnancy, and certain ethnicities.
You can help protect yourself and your family from diabetes by discussing risk for the illness with your healthcare provider and being tested for diabetes and pre-diabetes. Check your risk at www.fresnodiabetes.org. Take steps to prevent this insidious disease by maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthfully, and being physically active. Visit http://bit.ly/2cFXL2C.