Officials: Thousands in Minn. Don't Know They Have Diabetes

Updated: 03/26/2013 2:08 PM KSTP.com By: Chris Egert

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that diabetes rates in our state have nearly doubled the last 20 years.  And, that there are hundreds of thousands of people who have the disease, and don't even know it.

Tuesday, March 26 is Alert Day, when the American Diabetes Association asks you to log on to your computer or call their 800-number, and see if you are at risk.

Often, a diabetes diagnosis comes 7 to 10 years after the onset of the disease.

The American Diabetes Association is asking you to take one minute to fill out a simple on-line screening survey to see if you are a risk.

"It's hard.  It is really hard," says Becky Barnett.

The Twin Cities woman has lived with the disease for 25 years.

Barnett suffers from type 1 diabetes, and estimates she's probably pricked her finger and tested her blood around 60-thousand times in her life so far.

But Barnett remains positive, "It was the hand you were dealt, and you can choose to be upset and depressed about it, but I try to be optimistic about it."

The MDH estimates that around 290,000 Minnesotans like Barnett have been diagnosed with diabetes. But that 80-thousand have it, and don't know it, mainly because symptoms of type 2 diabetes aren't so obvious.

MDH estimates 1.4 million Minnesotans have pre-diabetes and aren't aware of it.    

Risk factors include: being overweight, being older, for women, having had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, people of color and American Indians also have a higher risk.

Chris Schaefer with American Diabetes Association Minnesota Area points out, "Complications of diabetes are blindness, heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, nerve disease, and amputations.”

As to why diabetes rates in Minnesota have nearly doubled in the last 20 years.

The Department of Health says that's mainly due to obesity, and an aging population.