More than 30 million Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes.
And millions more have elevated blood sugar levels, so they're at high risk of
developing the disease. Our Hispanic population is particularly vulnerable.
They are 66 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic
These statistics are alarming. Diabetes is a killer, and
something must be done about it. Approximately 80,000 Americans die from the
disease each year. And the true toll is even higher, because diabetes can lead
to heart disease, which claims more than 600,000 American lives annually.
Hispanic Americans are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes than
It's crucial that local government and civic institutions
help people prevent, better diagnose and manage these two costly chronic
Diabetes is ravaging Hispanic communities nationwide. The
number of diagnoses quadrupled between 1988 and 2014. The condition now costs
the United States $245 billion per year, according to the American Diabetes
The disease is so costly, in part, because it can
significantly impact the heart health of people living with diabetes. People
living with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease. In fact, 25 percent of the annual medical
costs of those with diabetes are attributed to cardiovascular complications.
Further, half of the people living with diabetes don't even
realize they're at heightened risk of heart disease. So they don't engage in
the preventative actions, such as exercising regularly and keeping their blood
pressure under control, that could keep their hearts healthy.
Far too many people with diabetes don't visit the doctor
regularly, so they're less likely to receive good diet advice and proper
prescriptions. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report,
Hispanics are the least likely racial or ethnic group to see a medical
provider. Nearly half reported that they hadn't visited a doctor in the past
Our Hispanic population in the U.S. is also 35 percent more
likely to be "inactive" than non-Hispanic Caucasians. And more than
seven in ten Latino adults are overweight or obese.
Educating people about the risks of diabetes and heart
disease -- and raising awareness of preventative measures -- would help curb
these twin epidemics. Preventing just one-third of diabetes diagnoses would
save the healthcare system $74 billion.
Fortunately, researchers are working to develop new and
improved medicines and treatments which also would save lives and healthcare
dollars. One study found that every dollar spent on diabetes medications
prevents $7 of spending on additional care.
Diabetes is devastating our community. But with greater
awareness of the value of simple lifestyle changes and a continued commitment
to treatment innovations, communities can make much needed progress to curb
these two costly chronic diseases and save lives.
Joshua D. Lenchus, DO, RPh, FACP, SFHM is President of the
Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. This guest column originally ran in
the Orlando Sentinel.