Each year, more than 200,000 Americans die of complications from diabetes, and the disease claims lives in Louisiana at the highest rate in the country. In an effort to raise awareness about the disease, the Department of Health and Hospitals’ Office of Public Health has launched a public education campaign this week, titled “Diabetes: The Silent Killer.” 

David Hood, LDH secretary, said it is important for Louisiana citizens to understand that while diabetes can be managed, early detection through testing is the key to preventing complications and lowering the risk of dying from the disease. 

“Throughout the month of March, we have partnered with medical providers to host free blood sugar screenings throughout the state,” Hood said. “Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but to encourage people to take this important first step toward better health.” 

The campaign emphasizes the risks and symptoms of diabetes and the need for prevention and treatment. It features three public service announcements targeting all citizens and includes special messages targeting the African-American population, since African Americans are at a greater risk for diabetes than people of other races. 

Diabetes is a disease that prevents the body from producing or properly using insulin, a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other foods into energy. Symptoms that could be early indicators of diabetes include:

·        Frequent urination
·        Excessive thirst
·        Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
·        Increased fatigue
·        Blurred vision

Dr. Gary Peck, OPH medical director, said preventing diabetes is the ultimate goal of the campaign.

“The best way to prevent diabetes is to eat healthful foods, exercise regularly and get tested annually,” he said.  “Although diabetes cannot be cured, it can be treated and controlled. People who have diabetes can learn to manage their disease by getting educated about it, following their doctor’s orders and making the kinds of changes to their lifestyle that will prevent or delay complications.”

People should contact a physician if they experience any of these symptoms and should be particularly cautious if they have any at-risk factors, such as obesity, bad eating habits and a lack of regular exercise.  Diabetes complications include heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, strokes and foot amputations.

For more information about warning signs and a listing of sites for free diabetes screenings, visit the campaign Web site, www.DiabetesTheSilentKiller.com, or call the toll free number, 1-800-DIABETES. 

Medical facilities participating with the Office of Public Heaalth for the free diabetes screenings include the University of Louisiana at Monroe School of Pharmacy, LSUHSC Diabetic Limb and Wound Care Clinic (Shreveport), Medical Center of Louisiana (New Orleans), Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, Baton Rouge General, and LSU--Shreveport.

Quick Stats

In 2000, the Louisiana rate of death from diabetes and its complications was 41.3 per 100,000.
The U.S. death rate in 2000 was 24.9 per 100,000.
The death rates from diabetes in the major metropolitan areas of Louisiana in 2000 were: Orleans Parish, 58.8; East Baton Rouge Parish, 39.1; Caddo Parish, 63.3; Lafayette Parish, 27.6; Calcasieu Parish, 32.4 for women; Ouachita Parish, 55; Rapides Parish, 43.2 for women.