November is American Diabetes Month — a time when those currently living with diabetes advocate for a cure and when those who are at high risk for diabetes can check in on their physical health.
As of 2018, data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that 34.2 million Americans (or 10% of the U.S. population) had diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of serious health problems like nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease.
This American Diabetes Month, share the most common risk factors for diabetes and how to manage them with your employees.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that impacts how the body uses blood sugar (known as glucose). Glucose is vitally important to one’s health — it is a major source of energy for cells that make up muscles and tissues. When there is excess glucose in the blood, it can lead to serious health problems.
Chronic diabetes conditions include Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks or destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leaving the body with little or no insulin and causing glucose buildup in the bloodstream. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the insulin resistance level of all cells causes a hyperglycemic state.
Reversible diabetes conditions include gestational diabetes and prediabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and may resolve itself once the baby is delivered, though women with gestational diabetes are at a much greater risk of developing diabetes as they age. Prediabetes is when one’s blood sugar may be higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.
UNDERSTAND THE RISK FACTORS
Risk factors vary slightly by diabetes type and include:
Type 1 risk factors:
- Family history: If a sibling or parent has Type 1 diabetes, one’s risk is increased
- Environmental factors (like exposure to viral illness)
- The presence of autoantibodies (damaging immune system cells)
- Location — certain countries, such as Finland and Sweden, have higher rates of type 1 diabetes
Type 2 and prediabetes risk factors:
- Weight (the more fatty tissue one has, the more resistant cells can become to insulin)
- Family history: If a sibling or parent has Type 2 diabetes, one’s risk is increased
- Race or ethnicity (certain individuals — Including Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian American people — are at higher risk)
- High blood pressure
- For women, polycystic ovary syndrome is a risk factor
- Abnormal cholesterol (HDL) and triglyceride levels
- Gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes risk factors:
- Women who are over the age of 25
- Family history
- Personal history of gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Race or ethnicity (women who are Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian American are more likely to develop gestational diabetes)
MANAGING LONG-TERM HEALTH
Maintaining a relationship with a trusted primary care provider is a good way to proactively manage any risk factors for diabetes. If an employee is at high risk for diabetes, their provider can help create a game plan for making healthier choices when it comes to diet and exercise.
They may also recommend screening measures like a fasting blood glucose test or other lab work that would help to confirm any diabetic risk factors.
If an individual is already diabetic, primary care providers are able to help patients care for their long-term health. Providers can support a patient’s medication regimen, provide diet and exercise protocols, and order any necessary routine lab work in order to manage a chronic condition like diabetes.
This blog is intended to be informational in nature. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your Care Team or other healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials.