Alaska editorial: Beware of the silent disease

Posted: Sunday, November 19, 2006

The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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The good news might be that we are losing weight; the bad news is that it might not be because thinking about exercise has had the effect we hoped. It doesn't work that way; thinking isn't doing, and without exercising, thinking is not enough reason for weight loss.

It just might be that we are displaying one of the signs of diabetes: losing weight without trying, urinating often or being extremely thirsty.

The state of Alaska reported 21,024 Alaskans reported in 2004 that they had been diagnosed with diabetes. That's a 27 percent increase from 2000.

This is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Throughout the United States, according to state statistics, about 18.2 million people have diabetes; a third of them aren't aware of it.

Diabetes is a silent disease. It is possible to have it for years, while it damages eyes, nerves, kidneys and the heart.

Every year at least a million new cases are diagnosed. People at risk tend to experience high blood pressure; they don't get enough exercise; they have high a family history of diabetes; or they had the disease during a pregnancy or delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth. The disease is more prevalent among Natives, blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders.

The severity of the disease varies with each person, but the common recommendation for everyone is to exercise most days of the week and eat meals with fruit, vegetables and whole grains. That's usually wise advice for most people, whether at risk of diabetes or not.

Aside from that, checking with a doctor would be prudent for people experiencing symptoms. Physicians will prescribe individual treatment.

General information is available on the American Diabetes Association Web site. Go to

It is estimated that 18 percent of males and 20 percent of females born in 2000 will be diagnosed with diabetes by the time they are 60. The numbers increase each year.

It is less expensive in regard to both cost and health to prevent diabetes. In this day and age, it can be done. But it means knowing what we're dealing with; is it diabetes? This is the time to find out.

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