Diabetes is a growing problem in South Carolina and, according to a recent report, it’s increasing at a rapid rate.

By the numbers

South Carolina ranks fifth-highest in U.S. in the percent of population with diabetes.The prevalence of diabetes increases dramatically in those 45 and older.Approximately one in seven blacks in South Carolina has diabetes.Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in South Carolina.In 2010, the total amount for hospital charges related to diabetes in South Carolina was $254.5 million.scdhec.gov

The diabetes rate in South Carolina doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent between 1995 and 2010, according to a report released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was based on phone surveys of at least 1,000 adults in each state. South Carolina was among six states with a diabetes rate of 10 percent or more. The state also ranks fifth-highest in the nation in the percentage of the population with the disease, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In 2010, the median age-adjusted prevalence was highest among states in the South, including:Mississippi 11.7%Alabama 11.3%Tennessee 10.6%West Virginia 10.4%South Carolina 10.0%Texas 10.0%CDCIN THE SOUTH

“Certainly we are not where we need to be in Charleston and Georgetown counties,” said Dr. Carolyn Jenkins, principal investigator for REACH US: SEA-CEED, a coalition of outreach programs that aims to prevent and control diabetes in the region. “There has been lots of progress, but there still needs to be more. We need a major focus on prevention.”

Preventing diabetes

For more information on diabetes prevention and management:South Carolina Diabetes Prevention and Control Program(803) 545-4471Diabetes Initiative of South Carolina(843) 876-0968REACH US: SEA-CEED(843) 792-4625

Since the SEA-CEED, or Southeastern African-American Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Disparities in Diabetes, program began in 1999, there has been a dramatic decrease in diabetes-related amputations, Jenkins said.

“Amputations have decreased by 44 percent across the African-American population,” she said.

Nerve disease caused by Type 2 diabetes is the leading cause of amputation, and foot problems, including poor circulation, are the most common reasons for hospitalization of people with type 2 diabetes.

Most of the SEA-CEED’s funding has decreased, however, and the mostly volunteer effort now is focusing on outlying counties, such as Williamsburg, Georgetown and Bamberg, where Jenkins said the need for education and preventative measures is very high.

“Diabetes is more common in lower socioeconomic communities,” Jenkins said.

One reason for that might be the cost of healthy eating. Type 2 diabetes has been closely linked to obesity and accounts for at least 90 percent of all diagnosed cases of the disease, according to the CDC report.

“To eat right is expensive, it’s more costly. Fried foods, junk foods are cheaper,” said Dr. Kathie Hermayer, a professor of medicine and endocrinology at the Medical University of South Carolina and the chairwoman of the South Carolina Diabetes Initiative. “Diabetes and obesity definitely go hand in hand.”

While obesity is considered a contributing factor in the development of type 2 diabetes, genetics play a part as well.

“Diabetes is definitely a family illness,” Hermayer said.

If diabetes goes undiagnosed, it can cause serious health complications. Damage to the eye and nerves, as well as infections can result from untreated diabetes, Hermayer said. Without proper treatment and management, diabetes can be fatal.

People who think they might be at risk can take measures to prevent or manage the disease.

“The key to preventing and controlling type 2 diabetes is controlling weight and preventing obesity,” Jenkins said.

Hermayer suggests keeping regular appointments with a primary care provider and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. Proper diet and exercise also are essential to preventing diabetes, she said.

“It doesn’t necessarily kill you,” Hermayer said. “You can live with diabetes. You can have a long lifespan living with diabetes.”

Reach Brindy McNair at 937-5764.