Most Mainers at risk for, or has diabetes

Does 48% scare you? Those are some pretty good bettin’ odds. That’s better than the overall odds at winning in Blackjack. The 2014 CDC data found 37% of Maine residents have prediabetes. Over 11% or 137,413 have diabetes and 36,000 of those people don’t even know they have it. Now that is really scary. How can people live with the common symptoms of uncontrolled blood sugars like yeast infections, extreme fatigue, erectile dysfunction, thirst and peeing all the time without going to their medical provider and complaining? Do people with these symptoms really think that life can’t get any better than that?

Metabolic Syndrome or Prediabetes- Reversible

metabolic syndromePrediabetes goes by several different names:  Metabolic syndrome, Syndrome X, and impaired fasting glucose are all names used for prediabetes. If you have central obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol, there’s a good chance you are on the road to diabetes. More specifically, if you have 3 of the 5 conditions to the left, you have prediabetes. Those odds of developing Type 2 diabetes are even greater if you have a family history of diabetes, had gestational diabetes, are older or are African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Alaska native, or Native American. You can see why the odds go up with each factor.  And just to clarify, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are really two different diseases with different causes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease associated with sudden changes in insulin production whose cause is not associated with lifestyle changes. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. You can learn about your odds here and talk to your healthcare provider.

A Prediabetes Diagnosis Should Imply A Sense of Urgency

Once prediabetes becomes diabetes, the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas quit working – some say as much as 50%. When the pancreas can’t meet the needs of the body not only do blood sugars rise, but other metabolic changes occur, particularly with fat metabolism. The higher blood sugars and lipid levels damage the blood vessels of the body. That’s why diabetes is really heart disease with a sugar problem. Complications of poorly managed diabetes are a result of nerve and vascular damage leading to blindness, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and amputation. These severe complications happen over time with earlier patient reported symptoms of depression, nerve pain in the extremities, frequent infections, sexual difficulty and a change in quality of life.

Let’s Stop Diabetes

Diabetes costs Mainers $1.6 billion every year. The costs are for treatment of severe complications like hospitalizations for heart disease and stroke, amputations and prosthetics, surgery to prevent blindness and dialysis. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could shift that money from end-of-life treatment to early detection, education and support?

Our healthcare system is changing. Where fee-for-service was the standard of care, outcome-based results is now the gold standard. Our health care system is now a team of medical providers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, population health nurses and medical assistants all with the aid of health informatics and data analysis. Healthcare is doing a much better job with managing chronic disease but is still weak on prevention. There is not a financial incentive yet to focus on that. The days of our medical provider being the sole conductor of our healthcare are over.  The new reality is that we need to play a proactive role in our own health.  Blood sugar levels often get overlooked. There were many times in my previous job when patients saw me for health education, unaware that they had prediabetes or diabetes. Things do get missed.

What You Must Do

Prediabetes develops over time. Blood sugar levels rise over many years and don’t suddenly hit the 100 mg/dl threshold. When I first became a certified diabetes educator the level was at 110 mg/dl, but lowering it provided earlier intervention.  Everyone should have a fasting blood glucose level done annually, especially if they have a family history of diabetes, are sedentary or overweight. And once it is done, get the results and know the significance of those results. There is support if you need it!

Barbara is a certified diabetes educator and health coach. She would love to help with any health questions and can be reached through her facebook page.

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