ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Medical experts are raising concerns about diabetes, especially in the Sunshine State.

Data shows the number of Floridians with diabetes is outpacing the national average.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.3 million Americans are living with diabetes, 96 million American adults are living with prediabetes, and about 1 in 5 people with diabetes are unaware that they have it.  

The American Diabetes Association stated that 11.6% of Floridians had diabetes compared to the national average of 9.4 percent. Diagnosed diabetes costs an estimated $25 billion in Florida each year and an estimated $327 billion in medical costs and lost work and wages nationally.

Those diagnosed with diabetes have more than twice the average medical costs than people without the condition.

“The higher risk population tends to be patients who are over 45 years old, have a little bit more of a weight issue, maybe don’t exercise as much,” said Dr. Amber Stephens, a physician with Optum in St. Petersburg.

Stephens also pointed out that people with diabetes are at higher risk for serious health complications.

“The complications, that’s where a lot of that morbidity and mortality comes from, and we’re looking at chronic kidney disease,” she said. “We’re talking about eye problems, glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinopathy damage to the eyes, nerve damage, patients develop neuropathy in their feet, where it’s burning and painful, debilitating, and then increased risk of heart disease, and increased risk of stroke.”

This November, during American Diabetes Month, Stephens is urging people to take diabetes seriously, by getting checked for the disease, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“It involves looking at your diet, looking at what are you eating?” she said. “Are you eating too many carbs? Do you move during the day? Because you can go exercise for 30 to 45 minutes at the gym in the morning, but if you sit on your rear end all day at work, or you’re or watching tv all day, the rest of the day you’re really not living an active lifestyle,.”

Stephens said healthy lifestyle shifts are great habits to not only manage diabetes but also avoid some types of diabetes that are preventable.

“There’s a huge financial burden with managing diabetes, so if we can prevent it in the first place, that’s huge,” she said.

Stephens also recommended if people have a family history of diabetes and are over the age of 40, they should ask their doctor for a blood sugar check.