According to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 23.6 million children and adults in the United States – nearly 8 percent of the population – have diabetes. This is an increase of more than 3 million people with diabetes in two years. Here in Arizona more than 450,000 people are impacted by diabetes. These statistics are shocking and scary.
As a primary care physician, I spend a great deal of time with my patients discussing disease prevention, the value of leading a healthy life and the importance of regular follow-up visits. A majority of my patients are diabetic and I discuss extensively with them the importance of diet and exercise, stress compliance with medication and lifestyle changes. I strongly believe that an educated patient will, in the end, be a healthier patient. Diabetes is a condition that can be well-controlled based on the choices we make.
For the third year, my employer, CIGNA, will be the presenting sponsor of the American Diabetes Association’s “Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes” event held at Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler on Saturday, Sept. 26. For the past two years, I have been involved in the association’s “Walk with Your Doc Program,” which encourages health care professionals to recruit patients and their families to form a walk team and raise funds.
The response from my patients to join my walk team, “Walk with Dr. Sudhakar,” has been overwhelming. They are very excited to walk with me and I was touched that I could encourage physical activity in so many people that may not have been open to it before. I also have a number of patients that are not able to participate, but I have invited them to attend the event to be part of the experience as a whole.
It is vital to listen to your body and learn how to decrease the risk of the disease. In addition to lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of regular exercise, heredity may play a role in developing pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Furthermore, the usual warning signs associated with diabetes may not be present during the early stages of the disease, often making it harder to detect.
Individuals should look out for the following symptoms, according to the American Diabetes Association:
• Intense, unusual thirst
• Frequent urination
• Blurry vision
• Excessive hunger or cravings
Knowledge is power. There is a wealth of information available about diabetes prevention and pre-diabetes. For example, Cigna Medical Group offers diabetes education classes where patients learn self-management skills, such as monitoring blood sugars, healthy eating, proper use of diabetic medication, exercise, behavior change strategies and problem-solving skills. Your health plan may also offer resources.
Diabetes is a disease that affects all of us in some way. For years I have seen firsthand the devastation that diabetes has caused my patients and their families. I encourage everyone to get involved in some way and together we can help “stomp out” diabetes once and for all.
For more information about the “StepOut Walk to Fight Diabetes” event, please visit www.diabetes.org.
Dr. Sheila Sudhakar is an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and internal medicine physician at Cigna Medical Group’s Chandler Medical Office.