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Diabetes rate troubling

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In the past decade, the number of diabetes cases in the United States has nearly doubled. The increase seems to dovetail with higher rates of obesity and lower rates of physical activity.

The South has the highest diabetes rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The worst rate was in West Virginia, where 13 in 1,000 adults were diagnosed with diabetes between 2005 and 2007. Minnesota had the lowest rate, with five diagnoses per 1,000 people. Utah's rate is among the lowest nationwide, although diagnoses have increased 73 percent since 1995-97 reports.

In addition to rising numbers of diabetes patients, the cost of medical treatment for the disease has doubled in just six years to $12.5 billion in 2007. Part of the increase is due to new, costlier drugs. In two recent studies, researchers concluded that older, less expensive drugs can achieve glucose control at lower costs and fewer side effects.

In any case, the growing number of diabetes cases is cause for concern. Diabetes can lead to complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and poor circulation that can lead to foot amputations. For the sake of an individual's health and quality of life, it is important to attempt to control the disease through diet, exercise and prescription medication as needed.

From a societal point of view, it is important to attempt to reverse these troubling trends for the health of the nation and to control health-care costs. The doubling of the number of diabetes diagnoses in a decade's time as well as doubling of treatment costs in six years time are worrisome.

These statistics cry out for the need for more physical activity, starting in childhood. Far too few schools offer daily physical education instruction. Some students have PE class once a week or perhaps two or three times a week in junior high. Instead of playing outdoors as the previous generations did, many children while away their free time watching television, playing video games or using computers.

Many Americans do not pay sufficient attention to their diets. Fast food has become a staple in many households. Processed foods sold in grocery stores can be high in fat, sugar and sodium.

While the human body has remarkable healing powers, it requires care and the best nutrition to operate at its best. Perhaps these startling numbers will encourage more Americans to alter their habits sufficiently to ward off this disease or to devote their best efforts to managing an existing diagnosis.