According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a new epidemic of our time. It's diabetes, a disease affecting more than 16 million Americans and the sixth leading cause of death by disease. Additionally, diabetes costs our nation close to $100 billion dollars annually.

An estimated 90 to 95 percent have type 2, previously known as adult onset diabetes. Many people are not even aware they have the disease until they develop one of its debilitating or life-threatening complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputations. Complications arise when there are excess levels of glucose, or blood sugar, that stay in the body for a prolonged time. People with type 2 diabetes have higher than normal amounts of sugar in their blood because the body either does not produce enough insulin, or the body has become resistant to insulin's effects, a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone necessary to convert blood sugar into energy.

To address the growing epidemic of diabetes and increase awareness of the importance of long-term diabetes management, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, with support from GlaxoSmithKline, launched its Let's Face Diabetes campaign, spearheaded by Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress Jane Seymour. Ms. Seymour, whose grandmother died of complications of type 2 diabetes, is committed to helping patients live longer, healthier lives through increased education about proper disease management over time.

The campaign highlights that early detection and a proper treatment plan may prevent or slow the onset of these deadly complications due to type 2 diabetes.

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Diabetes can be successfully managed over a lifetime. Here are some tips:

  • Exercise regularly and eat right. Proper diet and exercise may be enough to manage type 2 diabetes. Your physician may also prescribe a medication to help keep your diabetes under control.

  • Talk to a physician about treatments that might be appropriate for you such as those that target insulin resistance, an underlying cause of the disease.

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    "There is good news for patients," says Dr. Willa Hsueh, chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension and Professor of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles. "Therapies, called thiazolidinediones or glitazones, are available that make the body more sensitive to the insulin it already makes. These agents represent a new approach to diabetes management to help improve blood glucose control. Better glucose control may help reduce the risk of serious long-term complications."

  • Test your A1C levels. The HbA1C or A1C test is a simple blood test for people with diabetes that indicates how well blood sugar levels have been controlled over time. It complements daily glucose monitoring by providing a "picture" of long-term diabetes control, doctors explain. It can be performed in a physician's office or with a home testing device. The American Diabetes Association recommends that A1C levels be below seven percent to maintain good diabetes control. Recently, the American College of Endocrinology recommended that target goal be even lower-at six and a half percent. People with type 2 diabetes should take such tests twice a year, those with type 1, four times a year. The result should be discussed with a doctor.

  • Contact a Diabetes Educator. The American Association of Diabetes Educators is a group dedicated to improving the quality of diabetes education and care. To find a diabetes educator near you, call the AADE toll free at 1-800-TEAMUP4.

    If you don't have type 2 diabetes, you should consider whether you could be at risk. Among those at risk for developing diabetes include people who are obese, especially if they're "apple-shaped;" have a family history of the disease; are over age 45; and who belong to certain ethnic groups including African- Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.

NAPS