80,000 Minnesotans have diabetes, but don’t know it

By John Michaelson
Minnesota NewsConnection

The rate of diabetes in Minnesota has nearly doubled in the past 20 years, and that also means many more people have the disease unknowingly.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger says the latest estimates put the number of adults in the state who have diabetes, but are unaware of it, at around 80,000.

“It’s getting to a point where it is at a crisis level, and it’s going to have a huge impact on our overall health down the road,” the doctor warned. “So we need to identify people who have diabetes, and also we have to identify the people who are at risk for diabetes, in order to stop this explosion of people with this chronic disease.”

Those at risk across the country are being urged today to get themselves screened. The percentage of adults in Minnesota who are living with diabetes is now more than 7 percent, or nearly 300,000 people.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, and risk factors, said Ehlinger, include family history, age, race and obesity.

“Obesity, pardon the pun, is a huge problem,” he said. “We have become increasingly fat over the last 25 years. So we really want to address obesity as a general public health problem because it has implications for health, but certainly has implications for costs.”

It’s also said that more than a million people in Minnesota may have what’s called pre-diabetes. The good news is that diabetes is very treatable, and Ehlinger said that’s why it’s so important to be screened.

“You can go onto our Web site and find a little survey that you can take to see if you’re at risk of diabetes or pre-diabetes,” he said. “And then you can also make sure that you talk to your doctor or your health-care provider to go in and get screened.”

For overweight people with pre-diabetes, losing even a small amount of weight and increasing physical activity can delay or prevent onset of the disease.

More information is at bit.ly/ZnMFgT.