NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Thirty-five-thousand people in Louisiana are diagnosed with diabetes each year. While the disease is linked to genetics, lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and in celebration Liberty Bank partnered with the American Diabetes Association and New Orleans East Hospital to give away free healthy lunches to support National Healthy Lunch Day.
Marva Arceneaux is living with diabetes. "For the most part I feel good and healthy and I've been a diabetic since 2005," Arceneaux said. She took charge of her health, but many don't.
Dr. Tanya DeSilva, an endocrinologist and professor with LSU Health and Sciences Center says, "Patient education is very important in terms of both having people who have not yet been diagnosed realize that they have the disorder so that they can enter treatment and as well as for patients that have been told that they have diabetes that they know how to effectively work with their health care provider to have optimal treatment for their diabetes."
DeSilva says the statistics can be mind boggling. In Louisiana alone more than half a million people have diabetes, that's almost 14-percent of the population with another 1.2 million in the per-diabetes category meaning they have higher than normal blood sugars.
"Genetically, some people with a family history of the disease would be at higher risk of developing the disease, but other factors such as weight might play another component as well that's why lifestyle modification is also an important factor," says DeSilva.
The American Diabetes Association says it plans to release new findings that show genetics is the leading factor in developing all types of diabetes, but healthy eating, exercise and treatment can reduce or prevent the most devastating effects such as nerve damage and heart disease.
DeSilva says, "Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, kidney dysfunction. It is one of the leading causes of dialysis and it's also one of the leading causes of people having to have amputations."
Arceneaux is glad she made the changes and says it's crazy not to. "So many other things can happen by the time you find out that diabetes is the villain and you could have done something about it," Arceneaux said. "Small steps that can mean a longer life."