Published on November 12, 2020

November brings awareness to diabetes

By Beth Cecil, Messenger-Inquirer

November is American Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness of diabetes across the country. Join me this month as I take a moment to recognize the significance of this growing health condition that affects more than 34 million people in the United States.

Yes, that is 34 million people. Break that down and it means that one in every 10 Americans, or 10% of our population, has diabetes.

And in Kentucky, we have a statewide diabetes prevalence of 13.7%, higher even than the national average. Kentucky ranks eighth highest in the U.S. for diabetes prevalence. In 2016, we had the fourth highest mortality rate due to diabetes in the nation.

We all likely know someone who has diabetes, maybe it is even you. But perhaps what you did not know is that one in five people with diabetes are not aware that they have it. Add to this the 86 million more Americans who have prediabetes and it is clear we have a true nationwide diabetes epidemic. Prediabetes, a condition in which your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, increases a person’s risk of developing diabetes.

A quick review reminds us that diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects the way your body turns food into energy, leading to blood glucose or blood sugar level being too high. Your body’s cells need glucose from food for energy. Insulin, made by the pancreas, is the helper or “key” to getting that glucose from food into your cells. When you have diabetes, you either do not make enough insulin or your body does not use the insulin correctly. The result is elevated glucose or sugar in your blood.

Over time, diabetes can lead to very serious health problems including heart disease, kidney failure, vision loss, stroke and loss of toes, feet or even legs. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. And this disease is very costly. Medical costs of those with diabetes are twice as high as people without diabetes. In 2017, $327 billion was spent on medical costs, and lost work and wages, for people with diagnosed diabetes.

But it is not all doom and gloom. In fact, much of the diabetes-related illness and death can be delayed, reduced or prevented. Certainly, we can’t change some of the risk factors, such as our age, ethnicity or family history, but there are things we can impact to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

Often some basic lifestyle changes can help you reverse or prevent prediabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program studies have proven that moderate weight loss, (about 5-7%) by reducing caloric intake and eating healthier, and increasing physical activity to at least 150 minutes per week resulted in a 58% lower rate of type 2 diabetes.

For those who already have diabetes, these same lifestyle changes, following a healthy diet, getting physically active and reaching a healthy weight, are vital. Also key is keeping your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Be sure you get consistent quality health care and take your medications as directed. Your healthcare provider, seen regularly, can help in the management of your ABCs: A — regularly monitor your A1C level, B — keep your blood pressure in check, C — control your cholesterol and s — stop smoking or don’t start.

Finally, diabetes self-management education and support can help you learn the skills to manage your diabetes, cope with the emotional effects of diabetes and understand all the self-care strategies to help you live your best life with diabetes. Registered dietitians and nurses, specially trained to help people manage diabetes, are an essential part of the care plan team. This diabetes education and support is often covered by insurance. Speak to your healthcare provider and ask for a referral to a diabetes education or nutrition counseling to help manage diabetes.

For more information, visit any of the following websites for more information:

Beth Cecil, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian and the manager of Community Wellness for Owensboro Health. She has been practicing as a dietitian for 24 years and has spent the past 13 years working in wellness, health promotion and community education with Owensboro Health. Beth is passionate about wellness and nutrition, and works hard to promote Owensboro Health’s mission to improve the health of our community.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.