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The Physical and Financial Burden of Diabetes

Public News Service

Even as American Diabetes Month draws to a close, health experts are spreading the word about the importance of prevention, especially as new estimates put the number of Ohioans with diabetes as high as 10 percent.

Andrew Wapner, interim chief of Healthy Ohio at the Ohio Department of Health, says diabetes can lead to multiple complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and the loss of a limb if not addressed. He notes there are also lifestyle and financial burdens.

"If you develop diabetes your health care costs can go up at least three to seven times," he says. "If you develop it earlier in life, which is what we've been seeing across the country, that quality of life and cost carries with you throughout."

Wapner says diabetes costs Ohio almost $6 billion annually in medical expenses, reduced productivity, and premature death. About 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type II, which Wapner says can be prevented with healthier lifestyle choices, better nutrition, and physical activity.

If current trends don't change, estimates put the number of Americans with diabetes as high as 30 percent by 2050.

Those most at risk of getting diabetes include people 45 and older, as well as those who are overweight, inactive, and have an unhealthy diet. Wapner says low-income Ohioans are also more at risk.

"A person who lives in a household at or below the federal poverty level has about three times the likelihood of having Type II diabetes than somebody who makes $75,000 or more a year," he says. "So there's enormous disparities, and that's really at the foundation of how we approach it."

Wapner says state leaders are working with health care providers and community organizations to raise awareness and help identify pre-diabetes, which increases a person's risk of progressing to Type II diabetes. Diabetes Prevention Programs throughout the state help people prevent and manage the disease.

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