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Published on August 17, 2017

Tackling the diabetes epidemic

Jon Zlabek

Jon Zlabek, MD

If you're overwhelmed by these statistics, at least know this: diabetes is a growing problem that impacts everyone.

Knowing if you have diabetes is important because of the complications associated with diabetes. Jon Zlabek, MD, Vascular Medicine, explains, "Diabetes that is not well managed can lead to serious health problems. Helping patients control diabetes can help lower their risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, amputation, blindness and other diabetes-related health problems."

To combat the diabetes epidemic, Gundersen is taking a two-fold approach. "First is getting people in for appointments. It may seem obvious, but if people don't keep their appointments, we can't help them," says Dr. Zlabek. "We want to see patients with diabetes every six months. If not well controlled, we want to see patients every three months."

According to Dr. Zlabek, to combat diabetes it's also important to control:

  • Blood sugar—with lifestyle changes and medication(s)
  • Blood pressure—which should be less than 140/90 mm Hg
  • Tobacco use—we can provide help to quit
  • Cholesterol—using statins, even if cholesterol is normal or low, as everyone with diabetes can reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke by 25% with statins

The facts of type II diabetes:

  • It's the fastest growing chronic illness
  • 29.1 million people (9.3% of U.S. population) have it and the number goes up with age: 16% for ages 45-64; 30% for those over age 65
  • 8.1 million people with diabetes are undiagnosed
  • 1 in 5 healthcare dollars and 1 in 3 Medicare dollars are spent on diabetes
  • $322 billion is spent each year on diabetes and prediabetes in the U.S.

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, there are things you can do, too:

  • If overweight, lose at least 5 to 10 percent of body weight
  • Moderate exercise like walking 30 minutes most days
  • Don't smoke
  • Keep medical appointments
  • Work with a Gundersen diabetes educator
  • Take medications as directed

"If the cost of your medicine is an issue, there are ways we can help," says Dr. Zlabek. "The cost of treating complications from diabetes is much greater than the cost of the medicine, so it just makes sense to do all we can to help keep people healthy."

You can learn to manage and live with diabetes. While there is no cure, diabetes is controllable for a lifetime!


It is the total carbohydrates—not the sugar—in a food that raises blood sugars. Cookies, ice cream and other treats can be enjoyed occasionally, but are not healthy just because they advertise being sugar-free or low-sugar.

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