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AgriLife Extension Agent Carolyn Tyler, teaching a recent Diabetes class at UT Health. Thousands of Henderson County residents are fighting the disease.   

Insulin, a medicine that helps control a disease that steals the life and health of millions of Americans was a life-saving discovery a century ago.

According to Diabetestalk.net, on Jan. 23, 1922, 14-year-old Leonard Thompson became the first person to receive an insulin injection as treatment for diabetes. Before insulin, the only way to treat the fatal disease was through a diet low in carbohydrates and sugar, and high in fat and protein. That allowed people diagnosed with diabetes to live for about another year.

In November, UT Health offered a virtual class called “Type 2 Diabetes: What you need to know.”

Dr. Kurtis Kostan said statistics show that in 2019, 1.5 million deaths were attributable to diabetes. Today, about of every 10.5 people in the US has diabetes, but that number is likely to grow.

“It’s estimated that about one in every three people in our population is at least pre-diabetic,” Kostan said.

Diabetes fatalities for Henderson County, in 2018, measured 140 per 100,000 population, which is far above the state and national rate. The number of Henderson County males showing diabetes as a contributing factor to their deaths was 135.7, well above the female number, 83.62.

As a chronic disease, diabetes affects the elderly disproportionately. In Henderson County diabetes was more than twice as likely to contribute to the cause of death of a person age 85 or above than in the age 75 yo 84 range.

The statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control.

In recent years, the Henderson County AgriLife Extension has offered occasional courses on how to manage diabetes, by eating right and exercise. Extension Agent Carolyn Tyler said diabetes is a serious health concern, with more than 6,200 residents in Henderson County dealing with its effects.

Obesity can lead adults to Type 2 diabetes. The CDC reports Henderson County’s obesity rate at more than 30%. A 2018 survey showed that more than 25% of Henderson County residents participated in no physical activities during the previous month.

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