Diabetes is a chronic disease affecting the way the body uses food for energy. It is caused by an inability of the pancreas to make enough insulin or use it properly. It is a disease that is lifelong, complicated and costly. In fact, diabetes and its complications are the seventh leading cause of death in Pennsylvania, responsible for 3,184 PA deaths in 2010 - which could be compared to 9 deaths every day. (2010 PA BRFSS)
In 2010 alone, the hospitalizations where diabetes was the principal diagnosis accounted for over 121,000 hospital days and incurred over $948 million in hospital charges. (PA Department of Health analysis of 2010 PHC4 Diabetes Data)
Diabetes affects nearly 900,000 adults age 18 and older in Pennsylvania, or 9 percent of the population. (2011 PA BRFSS) Many people have no symptoms and learn they have diabetes only when they seek help for one of the complications. At present time there is no cure for diabetes, but research has shown that complications of diabetes can be greatly reduced with proper blood sugar control through healthy eating, physical activity and use of medications.
Diabetes Risk Factors
Although the cause of diabetes is uncertain, there are certain risk factors that can play a role in its development. Diabetes risk factors include genetics (family history), high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, over age 45, gestational diabetes during pregnancy, having an immediate family member with diabetes, and being a member of a high-risk ethnic group, as well as being overweight and having an inactive lifestyle.