Thursday, March 19, 2009

Diabetes can devastate

My family’s heartache of losing two young members

In 1972, my 28-year-old sister-in-law died from type 1 diabetes. She left behind two precious little girls and a grieving family.

She had been diagnosed at the age of 16.

To say our family has been deeply affected by diabetes would be an obvious understatement. At the time of her death we had no way of knowing this dreadful disease would also claim the life of her younger daughter at the age of 11. The coronary defects which killed her were linked to her mother’s diabetes.

They had gone undetected. Our family was devastated.

Research has come so far since then. Her older daughter, my oldest niece, is living with the same disease in a completely different atmosphere. Her two boys are healthy and thriving but the risk of their developing diabetes is real.

In 2000, diabetes killed 224,092 people in this country, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The statistics surrounding diabetes are startling.

While our population, as a whole, gains more weight, the risk of contracting diabetes increases as well. The unbelievable fact, to me, is in most cases, type 2 diabetes is mostly preventable.
There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States — or 7 percent of the population — who have diabetes.

While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed, unfortunately, 6.2 million people are unaware they have the disease.

While the symptoms may be duplicitous, it is always wise to inform your physician of any concerns you may have about your health.

After all, no one knows your body as well as you do.

Two years ago I was shocked to hear my doctor tell me I was pre-diabetic. My biological family had no history of diabetes. He told me if I didn’t take immediate action my health would suffer irreparably.

I lost 30 pounds and began a walking regimen. It wasn’t easy or overnight but I thought my children and grandchildren might one day appreciate it. I know I do.

The American Diabetes Association tells us 54 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which puts them at greatest risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Among the primary risk factors for type 2 are being overweight, sedentary, over the age of 45 and having a family history of diabetes. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders are at an increased risk, as are women who have had babies weighing more than nine pounds at birth.

Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death by disease in this country and has no known cure.
As the 21st Annual American Diabetes Alert Day, March 24, approaches, I implore each of you to have yourself tested for this insidious disease. Taking care of yourself is a gift to your family.

Candy McMichen is editor of the Everman Star and may be reached by email at

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