Senator Hassell-Thompson Advocates For Diabetes Education And Awareness

Ruth Hassell-Thompson

November 16, 2007

In recognition of November as Diabetes Awareness Month, State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) today announced an opportunity for people age 65 and older to take advantage of a no-cost diabetes eyecare program. Diabetes affects millions of Americans, yet experts estimate that one in three cases goes undiagnosed.

"Everyone knows someone with diabetes, whether it be a relative, co-worker or friend," said Senator Hassell-Thompson. "As a nurse, I’d like to urge my constituents to take diabetes seriously. Far too many people do not see diabetes as the serious, potentially life-threatening condition that it truly is."

Consider these facts from the American Diabetes Association:

Nearly 21 million children and adults in the United States are living with diabetes.

More than six million of them, or roughly a third, don't know they have the disease.

Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States.

Compared to the general population, African-Americans are disproportionately
affected by diabetes: 3.2 million or 13.3% of all African Americans aged 20 years
or older have diabetes.

If the current trend continues, one out of two minorities born in 2000 will develop
diabetes in their lifetime.

Some types of diabetes can be delayed or prevented by simple lifestyle changes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that converts sugar and other food into energy. The cause of diabetes is not thoroughly understood, although genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

"In its early stages, diabetes may go undiagnosed because symptoms seem so harmless," Senator Hassell-Thompson said. "Yet it’s far better to manage the condition, rather than letting it wreak havoc in your life. Studies have shown that healthy meals and regular physical activity can delay, or possibly prevent, diabetes and its dangerous complications."

According to the American Diabetes Association, some diabetes symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability and blurry vision.

Everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause
of vision loss in adults, experts say. However, early detection of diabetes and timely treatment can significantly reduce the risk of blindness.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, Eyecare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages people age 65 and older to take advantage of its Diabetes Eyecare Program, a year-round program that offers eye exams and up to one year of care at no out-of-pocket cost to qualified patients. For more information or a referral to one of 7,200 volunteer ophthalmologists, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-272-3937.

"Diabetes Awareness Month should also be a wake up call for lawmakers to take action on our state’s nursing shortage," Senator Hassell-Thompson concluded. "Nurses are on the front line of patient care, helping diabetics manage their conditions. As more New Yorkers develop diabetes, we can expect to see an increased demand on our health care system. Clearly, we’ll need more nurses to treat a surging number of patients, not less."