Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2018

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Guest column:

Make diabetes screenings part of your routine

Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing epidemics in the world, affecting 425 million people and quickly rising. It is the seventh-leading global cause of death, according to the World Health Organization.

The disease can be tracked in people of all races, income levels and ages. It doesn’t discriminate or pick sides. And when it hits, diabetes hits hard.

Despite the growing number of people who have diabetes — and even though it kills more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined — we as a nation are not treating the disease seriously enough.

We aren’t discussing the challenges of diabetes enough, or how to curb its growth. To start, the medical community needs to regularly test for diabetes even when symptoms don’t present.

I was 42 when I was diagnosed with diabetes. After having the flu, a secondary virus set in that destroyed my pancreas and, 10 years later, diabetes and its complications still have me fighting to control my weight, struggling during every meal and dependent on synthetic insulin.

My physician was in no hurry to consider diabetes when I told him I was losing weight fast, sleeping too much and had blurring vision. I had to convince my doctor to test my sugar. When I got the results, my blood glucose level was far above normal.

I was an anomaly. Deemed too old for Type 1, I was misdiagnosed and misprescribed. It took me six months to get my sugar under control and five years to figure out the foods and medicines, the highs and the lows.

According to the Nevada Diabetes Association, 12.4 percent of Nevadans have diabetes, costing an estimated $2.4 billion in Nevada annually. Of these, over 25 percent don’t know they have this silent killer. And 38.5 percent of Nevadans have pre-diabetes with high blood glucose levels and could be on their way to Type 2.

Diabetes has changed my life, and I have learned a lot in my battle to live my best life. I am a volunteer with the local Lions club, which now allows me to use my experience to help others struggling with this disease. When I heard Lions International designated diabetes as its signature cause last year, I joined a community of people who started the first Diabetes Wellness Club in Las Vegas to help raise awareness of this disease. We are an ideal group to take on diabetes because our network spans far and wide — we have 1.5 million volunteers in more than 200 countries.

Recently, thousands of Lions volunteers from 125 countries were in Las Vegas for the 101st Lions International Convention. The convention included educational training about diabetes and conversations about how members plan to help their communities back home.

Eight people like me lose their sight every day because of diabetes. Diabetics are four times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke. And the cost of diabetes will eventually cripple our health care system. We must change the we way we think about diabetes. And we need more routine screenings and awareness about the life-changing impact of this incurable disease.

Through more outward discussions in the workplace, at home, in school communities and community centers, we can help our public officials understand toll this disease takes, economically and in terms of quality of life, nationwide and worldwide.

But the first step can start with us. I urge all Nevadans to ask your doctors for regular diabetes screenings for you and your family.

Judi Temple is a member of the Black Mountain Lions Club in Las Vegas and the Diabetes Awareness Coordinator for the Nevada District 46 International Lions Clubs.