The burden of diabetes in the U.S., in Kentucky and in Whitley County is large and is growing. In 2000, only 6.5 percent of Kentuckians had been diagnosed with diabetes. As of 2010, 370,000, or 10 percent, of Kentuckians are estimated to have diabetes compared to 8.7 percent of adults nationwide.
In 2011, 13 percent of Whitley County residents were diagnosed with diabetes. Sixty-eight of Kentucky’s 120 counties fall within the “diabetes belt” with county levels between 11 percent and 12.6 percent. Forty-eight counties just missed the cutoff for the diabetes belt designation with rates of 10 to 10.9 percent and four counties had rates from 9.3 percent to 9.9 percent
Diabetes is even being seen more in younger adults as well. In 2000, less than two percent of Kentuckians aged 35-44 had been diagnosed with diabetes. In 2010, that number had tripled to a rate of 5.5 percent.
Why is diabetes becoming more common? There are several reasons.
Many are at risk due to high rates of obesity (32 percent) and low rates of physical activity (30 percent). In Kentucky, 36 percent of adults have high blood pressure and 42 percent have reported high cholesterol levels. (BRFSS)
Also, of the about 59 percent of the adults that have been tested in the past three years, seven percent have been diagnosed as having “pre-diabetes,” meaning their blood sugar levels are above normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Most of those with pre-diabetes will develop full blown diabetes if they do not take steps to slow or halt this disease.
The medical cost of diabetes in Kentucky is approximately $2,043,000. This includes $1,340,000 in medical costs and $702,000 in lost productivity.
But you can fight back.
Even if you already have diabetes you can help prevent early death from a heart attack or stroke. In fact, two out of every three people with diabetes will die from a heart attack or stroke.
So where do you begin?
Work with your doctor to know your ABC numbers.
A is for A1C. The A1C test (sometimes known as the HbAlc or hemoglobin Ale test) measures your average blood glucose (sugar) over the last three months. This should be tested at least twice per year with a goal A1C of below seven if you have diabetes.
B is for Blood pressure. High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. Blood pressure goal is 130/80.
C is for Cholesterol. Bad cholesterol, or LDL, builds up and clogs your arteries. LDL goal is below 100.
If you do not yet have diabetes, you can often prevent diabetes by taking action now.
Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Eat less salt and fat. Eat less sugary foods. Eat more fiber, found in foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. Stay at a healthy weight and stop smoking.
Take the Diabetes Risk test to identify your risks. This test can be found at the health department or on the Internet at www.diabetes.org by clicking on “Diabetes Basics” and “Risk Test.”
If you are at risk for diabetes, make diet and physical activity changes and see your doctor to lessen your chances of developing diabetes.
If you have diabetes, don’t let it control you. You can control your diabetes with the proper balance of diet, exercise and medications. And most of all Remember the ABCs.
Teresa L. Bunch, MS, CM, CLS
Whitley County Health Department