Diabetes is a serious medical problem that hits close to home here in the Rio Grande Valley. Whether it is a friend, family member or neighbor, the majority of us knows someone with diabetes. The latest CDC 2007 Statistics found that 23.6 million people have diabetes. Surprisingly, only 17.9 million people know they have diabetes while 5.7 million are still unaware. In addition, there were 1.6 million new cases of diabetes last year. Although these numbers seem astonishing, the situation is much worse here in the Rio Grande Valley.
Our population here in the Valley has three major risk factors that contribute to diabetes. The first risk factor is family history, with the majority of us having a family member with diabetes. The second risk factor is ethnicity, with 80% of the population in the Valley being Hispanic. The third and most problematic risk factor is obesity, which affects 20% of our population. This high rate of obesity has changed diabetes because it is no longer a disease found only in adults; our children are developing diabetes as well. This situation is of great concern because diabetes brings serious complications such as blindness, loss of limbs, heart disease, strokes, nerve damage and kidney failure when left uncontrolled or untreated.
Co written by Marcel Twahirwa, M.D.