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Heart of the Valley: The cost of living with diabetes

1 month 1 day 14 hours ago Wednesday, April 17 2024 Apr 17, 2024 April 17, 2024 11:12 PM April 17, 2024 in News - Heart of the Valley

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes.

In the Rio Grande Valley, an estimated 76,000 adults live with the disease.

UTRGV diabetes researcher John Blangero says diabetes is the most expensive chronic illness in our nation.

“The typical patient, it's about $20,000 a year that they're spending on healthcare, of which $12,000 is attributable to their having diabetes,” Blangero said. “About 20% of that is due to the drugs that they're paying for, but then all the other things that still come up."

Aside from the financial cost, Blangero said diabetes also takes a physical and mental toll on those with the disease. 

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As a Type 2 diabetic, Elizabeth Reynosa says she didn’t take care of her health, would often choose fast foods over making home-cooked meals.

“You need to take care of your diabetes, you need to have it under control, because if you can control it and maintain it, you won't have to be on medication,” Reynosa said. “You won't need to worry about kidney failure — you don't need to worry about what the cost will be… I paid a price for it. My leg got amputated because my sugars were at 500."

A lot of people want to stretch their dollars and choose foods that are less expensive, but that can mean foods that are unhealthier.

“Diabetes is heavily dependent upon obesity, and 60% of the Valley population is obese,” Blangero said. 

If uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to other health complications — adding to the expenses.

Reynosa's insurance covers those costs, but an estimated 60% of the population of the Valley do not have health insurance. The cost of doctor's visits and medication add up, leaving little money for extra help from nutritionist and dietitians.

The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley offers several programs — such as a virtual cooking class every week and a free community garden program — to help get you on a healthier track. 

Watch the video above for the full story.

HEB and South Texas Health Systems are offering free diabetes screenings in the month of April. Visit our Heart of the Valley page to view our calendar for times and dates where the screenings will be available.

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