Diabetes is a major health issue, especially in Mississippi and Alabama. Solving it could have a significant impact on health care costs in the U.S.
It's known as the silent killer. Health care officials say diabetes cannot only take a toll on a person's physical health but financial well being also. It affects more than 26 million Americans.
Over the years, the costs for diabetes have swelled to more than $174 billion a year. Officials say this is actually a rather low estimate because it does not take into account costs incurred for non-paid caregivers, or medical costs for people yet to be diagnosed with diabetes, and the costs of pain and suffering.
"People that are overweight, they are going to be at a higher risk for heart disease or diabetes," said Allison Mason, registered dietitian at Riley Hospital. "And all of those things can create tremendous hospital stays and hospital bills."
The American Diabetes Association says that the average cost for an inpatient hospital stay per day due to diabetes is more than $1800 and more than $2200 due to diabetes-related complications.
With Mississippi and Alabama leading the nation in diabetes rates, health care officials say the twin states have the most to gain from losing weight.
"Any amount of weight loss, exercise, not only will it help with the blood sugar and controlling or preventing diabetes, but it also helps a lot of other problems and heart problems, high blood pressure," said Marian Linton, nurse practitioner for Rush health Systems.
It's estimated that more than 115,000 Mississippians have diabetes and don't know it.
To help address this, Citizens National Bank in Meridian is sponsoring a Diabetes Detection Day Tuesday. Free blood glucose screenings will be offered.
"The prime candidates for diabetes are people over the age of 40," said CNB vice-president of marketing Lela Tisdale. "Those who are overweight, women who have had babies over the weight of 9 pounds, also, anyone who's just feeling signs of fatigue, numbness,frequent urination and things of that nature, all of those are warning signs that your body may be giving to you and telling you that you need to get checked out."
Screenings will be offered Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Citizens National Bank, 136 North Hills Street. The test involves one prick of the finger for a small sample of blood. Results are available immediately.