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Diabetes Month: Disease A Challenge for Millions in US


Monday, November 21, 2022   

November is national diabetes month, spotlighting a disease that affects millions of Americans.

In Washington state, more than 580,000 people have diagnosed diabetes and an estimated 164,000 have the disease but haven't been diagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Zena Edwards - the associate professor of health, wellness and nutrition who oversees the Diabetes Prevention Program at Washington State University Extension - said the disease is a big medical burden for folks.

"We're seeing it earlier, we're seeing a lot more people developing this," said Edwards. "So that's the not so great news. But the encouraging part is that a lot of it can be managed and also prevented with some lifestyle changes."

The American Diabates Association finds nearly two million Washingtonians have prediabetes.

Fortunately, Edwards said people with prediabetes can eat healthier and exercise more to potentially avoid a diabetes diagnosis.

She also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a lifestyle change program that has been successful at helping people avoid the disease.

A big challenge for people with diabetes is the rising cost of insulin. A recent study found that one in five adults with the disease are rationing their insulin to save money.

Dr. Nicole Brady - chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare - said pharmaceutical companies set the price of prescription drugs, including insulin, and the lack of competition can drive up prices.

She said it's putting the drug out of reach for many patients.

"Many of them may even have to make decisions such as, 'Am I gonna buy food for my family this week or am I gonna spend money on my insulin?'" said Brady. "So it puts them in a very precarious position."

Edwards said there are many aspects to diabetes and people can feel overwhelmed when they find out they have it.

"There's a new recognition," said Edwards. "And, really, a lot of movement in the health care field of making sure that when people are newly diagnosed with diabetes or if they are struggling with managing their diabetes that we make sure we look at the mental health aspects."

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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