JACKSON, MS (WLBT) – Medical experts say it has reached epidemic proportions.
Mississippi's number one health problem is diabetes.
Sunday afternoon people across central Mississippi laced up to join the fight against the disease and raise money for research, education and patient services.
More than a thousand people put one foot in front of the other on the grounds of the Southern Farm Bureau in hopes of being one step closer to finding a cure for diabetes.
Dozens of teams joined the fight, most personally affected by the disease.
"I'm walking for diabetics. My twins' father died of diabetes last year," said walk participant Deloris Thomas.
Because of the disease's fatal affects, Thomas eats right and gets plenty of exercise.
"I'm alive and I'm healthy, and I'm not diabetic and don't take medication," added Thomas.
"It's been a wonderful day. We got rained out last year. The sun is shining on us this year," said Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi Associate Director Irena McClain.
She said the weather was great for exercising, just one way to combat the disease along with eating healthy.
"Processed stuff that adds pounds is cheaper than healthier salads, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables. So we've got to try to figure out ways to get people to afford better food and afford to take the take to get out and exercise," added McClain.
Music filled the air as walkers and runners pushed toward the finish line.
Among them were medical professionals who warn of diabetic neuropathy.
"Which means that the sensation in their feet goes away, so if they don't have any sensation in their feet they can walk on anything and develop a diabetic ulcer and they won't even know that they have it. An untreated diabetic ulcer will ultimately lead to a limb amputation," said Jackson podiatrist Dr. Percy Anderson.
An estimated 346,500 Mississippians have diabetes.
"I don't want to give into the whole idea that diabetes is hereditary because you don't have to. You can stay healthy. You can change what you eat and you can educate yourself about it, and you don't have to be a victim of the disease," said walk participant Jackson State University professor Dr. Preselfannie McDaniels.
"Before today I didn't have any interest in it, but I learned a lot about diabetes. I learned there are over 17 million diabetics in the United States and would love to participate in the walk next year," said J.S.U. student Marissa Simms.
All the funds raised during the event will stay in the state.
The Mississippi Walk for Diabetes in Jackson is in its 17th year.