Bringing awareness to diabetes

The number of people living with diabetes is on the rise nationally and in the Valley as local physicians tell Action 4 News.

Doctor Alfredo Garcia is the director of the Jessie Crump Diabetes Education Center at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.

He said the number of patients they treat with diabetes at Valley Baptist is much greater than other hospitals in the United States.

According to Dr. Garcia, more than 30 percent of the patients at Valley Baptist are treated for diabetes, while the average nation wide is only 10 percent. "We're trying to get more clear numbers with different studies that are going on through the area, in an attempt to someway make it clear," he added.

The CDC estimates that Hispanics are 76 percent more likely than Non-Hispanic Whites to get diabetes.And the Valley population is overwhelmingly Hispanic, almost 90 percent, according to the U.S Census, Dr. Garcia knows this.

In addition, he said that many people who have diabetes do not know they have it.

Additional numbers from the CDC back his claim.

In the most recent figures, from 2007, nearly 24 million people in the U.S. were living with diabetes, and out of those, approximately 6 million of them were undiagnosed.

Back in 2002, CDC figures state that the total number of people living with diabetes was 18 million.

The number of people who were undiagnosed was a little more than 5 million.

Nurse Maria Gonzales, a certified diabetes educator, said part of the reason why so many people do not know they have the disease is because there is a lack of knowledge about it.

"For many people, there are no signs when they have diabetes, she added. So it TMs really important that they get tested, most especially if they have a [family] history of diabetes."

As a certified diabetes educator, Gonzales deals with diagnosis and prevention frequently.

She said getting tested is key to preventing the disease, in addition to exercising frequently and having a nutritional, portion controlled diet.

"It TMs a killer, diabetes is a killer, she said. I know many people take it lightly, but it TMs truly something that you have to take action on." She added that if you are diagnosed with diabetes, there are ways to keep it under control and avoid any complications.

According to physicians from the Diabetes Education Center, when symptoms for diabetes do present themselves they can include: Frequent urination Unintended weight loss Constant thirst Fatigue Blurred vision

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