ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The IHS Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention is marking March 27 - American Diabetes Alert Day - by helping to spread the message that diabetes is a serious disease and American Indians and Alaska Natives need to find out if they are at risk. Approximately 60 million Americans, including thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives, are not aware that they have diabetes or that they are at risk for the disease.
''Fifty years ago, there were very few cases of diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives,'' said Dr. Kelly Action, director of the IHS Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention. ''Today, one out of six Native Americans has been diagnosed with diabetes, and many more are unaware that they have diabetes or pre-diabetes, a condition that puts them at high risk for the disease. We need to spread the word that diabetes can be prevented and controlled.''
The IHS Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention administers the Special Diabetes Program for Indians. Created by Congress in 1997 to respond to the diabetes epidemic among American Indians and Alaska Natives, the SDPI is the largest, most far-reaching diabetes program for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States. The program's 399 grantees have made a major difference in the quality of diabetes treatment and prevention for hundreds of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives. ''SDPI grantees, we have changed our community's beliefs about diabetes. Now, many more people are aware of diabetes. They know they can prevent diabetes and live a long and healthy life and manage the disease successfully.''
The risk for diabetes increases as people get older, gain too much weight or do not stay active. Diabetes is also more common among American Indians and Alaska Natives as well as other ethnic minority groups. Other factors that increase a person's risk for diabetes include having high blood pressure, having a family history of diabetes, having diabetes during pregnancy or having a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth. The IHS Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention recommends visiting the American Diabetes Association's Web site at www.diabetes.org and taking the diabetes risk test to find out about your risk for diabetes.
For more information about the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, and its diabetes treatment and prevention activities, visit the IHS web site at www.ihs.gov/medicalprograms/diabetes. For more information about the American Diabetes Association's ''Awakening the Spirit Program'' in Native American communities, visit the web site at www.diabetes.org/communityprograms-and-localevents/nativeamericans/awakening.jsp.