World Diabetes Day Reminds People to Get Diagnosed; Number of New York Diabetics is at Epidemic Proportions

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 14, 2007) – The New York State Health Department today joined public health leaders worldwide in observance of World Diabetes Day.

"New York state is experiencing the negative effects of the diabetes epidemic and its consequences that are rampant worldwide," said state Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Since 1994, the state has witnessed nearly a 100 percent increase in the number of people with diabetes, with a staggering 1.5 million New Yorkers now estimated to have the disease."

What may be even more troubling is that nearly 450,000 New Yorkers with diabetes have not been diagnosed, and are therefore not receiving the recommended medical care that has been proven to prevent diabetes complications.

People with diabetes have a shortage of insulin or a decreased ability to use insulin, a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) from food to enter cells and be converted to energy. When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in the blood and, over time, damage vital organs.

"All New Yorkers should talk with their health care provider to find out whether they should be tested for type 2 diabetes," Dr. Daines said. Diabetes is more common in the elderly, in women, and in certain racial and ethnic groups. African American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native adults are twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes. It is also more common in people who have a first-degree relative with the disease, in people who are overweight and in women who have had gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. A simple blood test is all that's needed to diagnose diabetes.

"Then, people who have diabetes should know their A1C number," Dr. Daines added. A1C is a blood test that should be done at least twice a year for people with diabetes. It is a good indicator of how well blood glucose has been controlled over the previous three-month period. An A1C number of less than 7 is the goal.

"There are many things that people with diabetes can do to keep their blood sugar well-controlled," said Dr. Daines. "Following a healthy lifestyle, with particular attention to eating healthy foods and being active, is very important for diabetes management. People with diabetes should also visit their health care providers on a regular basis to make sure they are getting the medical care they need."

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1, which is not preventable, most often appears during childhood and adolescence. It is caused by a destruction of the area of the pancreas where insulin is produced. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to survive.
  • Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and physical inactivity, accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes cases and most often appears in people older than 40. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with medications and lifestyle changes, including eating healthy foods and being physically active on most days of the week. An alarming recent trend is the increased number of children and adolescents, especially from minority populations, who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

New York state funds 15 regionally-based Community Coalitions for Diabetes Prevention to get these important messages into the hands of people with and at risk for type 2 diabetes. "The coalitions provide community-based education and programs that raise awareness about the risk for diabetes, how to prevent diabetes in people who are at high risk, and how to prevent the complications of diabetes that can occur when blood glucose is not well controlled," said Dr. Daines. Contact information the 15 coalitions can be found at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/diabetes/

The designation of November 14 as World Diabetes Day brought countries all over the world together to raise awareness of the global diabetes epidemic. On December 20, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly passed a landmark resolution recognizing diabetes as a chronic, debilitating and costly disease, deserving of a worldwide campaign. November 14 was chosen because it is the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea which led to the discovery of insulin in 1921.