With diabetes, lack of knowledge hurts

When you think about the things we love in the South, food certainly comes to mind. Fried chicken or Southern-fried steak, mashed potatoes, butterbeans, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread and sweet tea make for an ideal Sunday dinner, especially one topped off with a big ol' piece of pie or homemade cake.

Of course, that kind of food hits pretty heavy, which makes it hard to get up and move around, not that moving around is as big an activity as it once was.

While menus change, it's pretty clear that, as a region, we have some bad habits when it comes to overeating and under-exercising. Back in 2010, Dr. Jacqueline Grant, who heads up the 14-county health district that comprises much of deep Southwest Georgia, noted that Georgia was the No. 2 state behind Mississippi when it came to an increase in cases of adults being diagnosed with diabetes. "And Southwest Georgia's numbers are some of the highest in the state," she said."

According to the numbers based on 2007 data, Lee County had the best rate for the region with 10.3 percent of its residents -- more than one out of every 10 -- having been diagnosed with diabetes. The two worst rates in the Southwest Georgia district were Dougherty County at 13.4 percent and Calhoun County at 13.5 percent. This is also an illness that is more prevalent in the African-American population, with the highest percentage showing up in African-American women.

Southwest Georgia's not alone in this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2010 25.8 million people in the United States were affected by the condition, which ranks as the No. 7 leading cause of death in the country. Of those, 18.8 million knew they had diabetes, while another 7 million had it but didn't know.

And that is the biggest danger -- not knowing.

Uncontrolled, diabetes leads to serious health complications that can result in blindness, amputations, cardiovascular disease, kidney damage and, worst of all, death. In fact, the risk of death for those with diabetes is double that of those who don't have it. This is a situation in which what you don't know definitely can and will hurt you.

It's not all bad news, though. Diabetes can be controlled through a combination of diet, exercise and medication. Those who have prediabetes -- the CDC says 35 percent of all American adults fall in this category, where the glucose level in their blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to qualify for a diabetes diagnosis -- can change their diets and increase physical activity to stave off the full onset of the disease for as long as possible.

Today, NBA Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins is in town for a lunch-and-learn session at Phoebe Northwest. The former Atlanta Hawk and University of Georgia star, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2000, will be encouraging folks to "Get a Jump on Diabetes." The session includes a free lunch as well. In an effort by The Albany Herald to help raise awareness about dealing with diabetes, on today's DailyViews page there are two columns written by a couple of people who you might recognize who have first-hand experience with this condition.

A simple blood test is all it takes to give you peace of mind or to give you the advantage of knowledge. Diabetes can be hidden for a while before it has a noticeable impact, but the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better chance you have of successfully controlling it.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board