MISSOULA, Mont. - Figures from the American Diabetes Association and Providence Health Services show diabetes is dealing Montana a powerful blow.
They indicate diabetes costs Montana close to $830 million a year, doctors diagnose 5,000 new cases in the state very year, and more than 43 percent of Montanans have diabetes or prediabetes.
Jennifer Troupe is a specialist with Providence Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition.
She says many Montana patients are having difficulty affording medications.
"There's a lot of high deductible plans out there. The cost of insulin continues to skyrocket. They can't afford it," said Troupe.
Troupe adds that someone with diabetes has at least twice the medical expenses as someone without the condition, and people who live on reservations are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
These kinds of statistics are why November is American Diabetes Month.
Doctors diagnosed Missoula resident and auto technician Wayne Keating with diabetes 16 years ago.
He showed us foods that help him manage his blood sugar at the Pattee Creek Market in Missoula.
"Two of the best things you can eat are fish and chicken. They don't have the fat of red meat. It's easier to judge what your blood sugar is going to do. We have a lot of broccoli, carrots and potatoes. I can eat an apple, and that will make my blood sugar hold on a steady line all night long," said Keating.
Keating warns diabetics not to try and handle this constant management alone but to work closely with a diabetes educator who will help with a wide range of issues including labeling and food content.
"They are a go-between with your doctor. You can contact them quicker. You can normally get an appointment sooner," said Keating.
Awareness like this is becoming more and more important as Montana's diabetes and pre-diabetes averages are now higher than the national average.
"We used to be under. On the report from the American Diabetes Association we are higher, which is of concern because Montana has typically been known as a healthier state," said Troupe.
"We're finding a lot of under-diagnosis. I think only about 11 percent of those who have pre-diabetes are being told by their physician that they have it. So we have a real initiative to try and catch those folks who are at risk and prevent the conversion in the first place," adds Troupe.
Diabetes educators also warn that the never-ending task of management can take a toll.
"They can feel hopeless. They can feel like they don't have control over their life anymore," said Troupe.
Keating warns that emotions can be overwhelming right when a person is diagnosed.
"You're going to be scared, and you think that you are going to die. If you are conscious of it you are going to think, 'Well, I am going to die sooner because of this.' You don't have to," said Keating.
Keating says there's no reason you can't live a long, healthy life, as long as you are managing what you eat, not covering up a bad diet with insulin and making sure you get the help you need from a doctor and diabetes educator.