Although we live in one of the healthiest counties and states in America, did you know that our current diabetes rate in Colorado would rank as the highest rate in America just 30 years ago?
And that our county diabetes rate of 6.5 percent, combined with national pre-diabetic statistics, equate to at least 20 percent (3,800) of Chaffee County residents are either diabetic or prediabetic?
Nationally, 30 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated 80 million with prediabetes are at great risk of developing full diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.
Progression from prediabetes to diabetes can take as little as five years. Approximately 90 percent of those with pre-diabetes remain unscreened or undiagnosed. Several risk factors increase a person’s risk of prediabetes, including:
• Being overweight.
• Being physically active less than three times per week.
• Having a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes.
• Being over the age of 40.
• Being a man.
• If you’re a woman, having a history of gestational diabetes.
You can find out if you are at-risk for prediabetes by taking the online risk test at DoIHavePrediabetes.org and a blood test can also confirm.
Prediabetes can be delayed or reversed with proper diagnosis and lifestyle changes through nutrition and exercise habits.
It can be said that, “you may have a predisposition to type 2 diabetes but are not predestined” and “genetics may load the gun but lifestyle and diet pull the trigger.”
Diabetes is a major risk factor for developing heart disease and other health conditions and does its dirty work by causing physical damage to the blood vessels and organs of the body.
Diabetes can be classified into two basic types; Type 1 often has a rapid onset, at a young age and is categorized by an absence or negligible production of insulin by the pancreas.
Type 2 develops more slowly, and usually in adults. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas might make insulin but not enough to “unlock” the doors of cells adequately.
Insulin is a “key” that unlocks the doors of our cells so we can use sugar as energy.
If we don’t use up the sugar in our blood stream, it sticks to our red blood cells (think gumdrops stuck to an egg) and is measured by a HA1c test.
These rough sugary red blood cells travel around the bloodstream causing damage and destroying organs over time.
The processes and steps are more complicated but this is the big picture of why diabetes is such a big deal. An elevated HA1c may also affect immunity and increase COVID-19 related complications.
Healthy eating, physical activity, and medications are the hallmark of controlling blood sugars.
There is no cure for diabetes; across the nation, healthcare systems in large cities organize events called “Walk For the Cure” to raise awareness and funding for diabetes research.
Perhaps they should be titled “Walk To Cure” diabetes since physical activity has extensive benefit to controlling and even reversing diabetes in some cases.
Just 15 minutes of daily physical activity can greatly improve blood sugar levels.
The goal in diabetes management is maintaining blood sugars at a normal level. This is obtainable and one should consider themselves in the driver’s seat with their healthcare provider team on the sidelines.
Discuss with your physician what you can do to improve your diabetes or prediabetes. A registered dietician nutritionist or certified diabetes care and education specialist can also provide materials and skill development to help you take control of your blood sugars.
Evidence-based programs can reduce the burden of diabetes and prediabetes. Contact Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (530-2057) for diabetes education or Chaffee County Public Health (539-4510) for pre-diabetes programs.
Chaffee County Public Health and Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center partner on the Diabetes Prevention and Management Network serving Chaffee County and our surrounding region.
Jon Fritz, BA, CDCES, CEP, is HRRMC’s Wellness Department Manager. Rebecca Rice is the Community Health Program Manager for Chaffee County Public Health.