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Diabetes Becoming More Common

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Over 29 million Americans are living with diabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in four of them, however don't know they have it.  With that number rising rapidly across the nation and even in South Dakota, KDLT took a closer look at why.

Rhonda Jensen has worked as a diabetes nurse for the past 26 years. When she started her profession, she tells me 16 million Americans had been diagnosed diabetes. More than two decades later that number has risen by 5 million to 21 million and she attributes the rise to poor eating and exercise habits.

"We are seeing more and more people with diabetes every day," Jensen, who is the Diabetes Coordinator at Sanford Health said.

Jensen said the ages in which people are diagnosed are getting younger too. Nearly three decades ago when she started her career, Jensen said all the patients she took care of were over the age of 65.

"Now when we sit down and do a diabetes class about half of those people are over the age of 65 and the other half are in their 30's and 40's," said Jensen.

In fact, nationwide there are 4.3 million people ages 20 to 44 with the disease. There's another 13.4 million ages 45 to 64.

And although 29.1 million people suffering from type one or type two diabetes is a big number, the number of those that are pre-diabetic is more than twice as many.

"There are 67 million people that have pre-diabetes," Jensen said.

Jensen said it's all about prevention.

And it sounds like a no brainer, but preventing diabetes could be as simple as making healthier eating choices.

"And watch your portion size," Jensen suggested.

Cutting back on how much fast food you eat is a good start Jensen said. Instead of chips or cookies, try filling up your cart with granola bars or something a little sweet like grapes. Exercising is also a good way to keep the disease at bay.

Jensen also suggested that anyone with a family history of the disease get a regular check-up.

And for those who have already been diagnosed, she said use the same tips and keep your sugar levels stable.

"Work with your physician, work with a diabetes educator or a dietitian to help you with the management of it," Jensen said.

Jensen said the biggest risk people run when they have untreated diabetes, is heart disease and stroke.

In the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report, it states that diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2010.

For more information on the symptoms of diabetes or how to stay healthy after being diagnosed, you can find it on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website .

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