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Diabetes in Kentucky: "Everybody’s Disease"

Itís estimated that the number of Kentuckians with diabetes will top 500,000 by 2020. (Denise Chan/Flickr)
Itís estimated that the number of Kentuckians with diabetes will top 500,000 by 2020. (Denise Chan/Flickr)
November 20, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. – What and how much people eat – and how it affects their health – are top-of-mind every holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving.

But folks throughout Kentucky are also working this month to draw attention to the diabetes epidemic.

The number of people with diabetes has nearly doubled in the Commonwealth since 2000, and now affects about 1 in 8 adults in the state.

As a volunteer advocate with the American Diabetes Association in Kentucky, Stewart Perry contends it's a disease that all Kentuckians should take a stand on.

"Everybody knows somebody that has diabetes,” he states. “If it's not in your family, it's in your next door neighbor's family or your coworker's at work family, or it's one of those two people.

“So, it's everybody's disease, and everybody needs to play a part in trying to do something about it."

In Kentucky, 16 towns and cities, as well as the state, have issued proclamations observing National Diabetes Month in November, which Perry says highlights just how important it is to address the growing problem.

It's estimated that more than 500,000 Kentuckians will have diabetes by 2020, and possibly up to 750,000 by 2025.

And Perry explains many people don't realize the impact it can have on the body.

"It is the number one cause of heart disease, the number one cause of hypertension, the number one cause of kidney disease, the number one cause of end-stage renal disease, the number one cause of amputation, the number one cause of blindness,” he points out. “All those things are attributed to diabetes."

Perry says there are ways every community can address the epidemic, including improving access to fresh foods and safe, healthy spaces for exercise.

And he contends the state needs to commit funding to programs that help people prevent and manage diabetes.

"There are many people that believe that if we don't put it in check, diabetes is going to bankrupt our economy,” he stresses. “It's a $5 billion problem to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Can you think about what that would do to our pension if we had that $5 billion back, to spend it? It would do great things."

According to American Diabetes Association, in 2012 diabetes cost Kentucky $3.8 billion in total medical costs, lost work and lost wages.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY