The report, released Thursday, includes the direct and indirect costs of diabetes and shows that the increased cost was due mainly to a rise in cases of the disease. The report also ranks Alabama third among the 50 states in the prevalence of diabetes. But while some health experts see the report as alarming, they say many residents can make life changes to avoid the disease entirely or at least delay its onset.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood sugar levels are above normal.
The report shows diabetes cost the U.S. $245 billion in 2012, a 41 percent increase from the $174 billion it cost the country five years ago. The report includes the cost of resources used in treatment of diabetes and the health problems associated with it. The report also includes indirect costs of diabetes, such as lost productivity at work.
"There is a big social cost with diabetes," said Dr. Tim Garvey, chairman of the department of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "This adds a great financial burden and I think diabetes is a major driver of rising health care costs."
The report shows that medical expenditures for people with diabetes are 2.3 times higher than for those without diabetes. Also, 62.4 percent of the cost of treating diabetes in the U.S. is provided by government insurance, including Medicare, Medicaid and the military health care system.
The report indicates diabetes had a $3.01 billion direct medical cost to Alabama and a $1.3 billion indirect cost last year. The figure places Alabama 21st among states with the highest diabetes costs. However, among those states, Alabama ranks just second, behind Florida, in terms of prevalence of diabetes in the population and third compared to all 50 states.
In Alabama's population, 8.8 percent or 425,000 people were diagnosed diabetics in 2012, tying the state for third with Mississippi among states with the highest prevalence of the disease. West Virginia was the top state, with a prevalence of 10.2 percent while Florida was second at 8.9 percent.
Kanina Crosen, nurse practitioner with the Oxford Adult Care and Weight Loss Center, said diabetes is very prevalent in Calhoun County. Crosen agreed that the disease can be quite costly.
"It can be, especially if it's well advanced," Crosen said. "And a lot of cost is from the other health problems associated with it."
Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations.
Crosen said her clinic focuses on diabetes prevention as well as weight loss.
"Most of the time if you develop diabetes, its because you are overweight," Crosen said.
Crosen said she provides nutrition counseling to her patients along with details on how to exercise.
"We encourage high protein and high vegetable intake, but no fried foods," Crosen said. "And avoid all white foods such as bread and potatoes — to avoid the carbohydrates."
Garvey agrees that proper diet and exercise can do much to prevent diabetes or at least delay its onset in many patients.
"Just a 5 percent or 10 percent loss in body weight can reduce a person's chances of developing diabetes," Garvey said.
LaMont Pack, director of the diabetes prevention and control unit at the Alabama Department of Public Health, said preventing diabetes is key in preventing many other chronic diseases that plague the state.
"Some of the same things you can do to prevent diabetes you can do to prevent other diseases like stroke and cancer," Pack said. "It all ties together."
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.