Monday, October 10, 2022
CMO Message: Diabetes Prevention
Although the most devastating parts of the COVID-19 pandemic are hopefully behind us, we are just starting to understand the aftershocks that impact long-term risk of chronic physical and mental health conditions. Over 11% of Americans have diabetes and 1 out of 3 adults have prediabetes today. In the next several years, these numbers are guaranteed to increase, possibly even skyrocket, due to the enormous impact of the pandemic.
For many people, their lifestyle changed dramatically over the last few years. Some improved their health by cooking more meals at home and making more time for exercise. For others, health risks such as decreased physical activity, processed foods, tobacco and alcohol use, and sleep problems worsened. Social determinants of health such as job insecurity, financial strain, loss of loved ones, and prolonged stress all wreak additional havoc on metabolism. To further complicate matters, people who have had COVID-19, even if the infection was mild, are at increased risk of developing diabetes.
If you were screened for diabetes a few years ago and had a normal A1c, your metabolism might have changed since then. Diabetes often does not have any symptoms so make sure you check in with your healthcare provider and ensure that you get screened regularly. All it takes is a simple blood test.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, there are many treatment options available and you might be able to control it with lifestyle changes alone if it is caught early enough. Since diabetes increases your risk for other health conditions, talk to your doctor about additional health screenings you might need. These include screenings for high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, kidney disease, eye disease (retinopathy), and nerve damage (neuropathy).
For day-to-day management of diabetes and lifestyle changes, UnitedAg members have access to free unlimited individual coaching through the UnitedAg Health & Wellness Centers, Livongo, and Teladoc nutrition services. Members who enroll in Livongo will also receive free glucometers, test strips, remote monitoring of blood glucose data, and on-demand coaching. If you need assistance with getting screened for diabetes or diabetes treatment, call UnitedAg member services at 800.223.4590 and we’ll make sure you get the care you need right away.
- How do I know if I’m at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
1 in 3 adults in the US have prediabetes, where blood sugar levels are elevated but not severe enough to qualify for diabetes. If you have prediabetes, a family history of diabetes, or diabetes during a pregnancy; you are at increased risk of developing diabetes. Additional lifestyle risk factors include being overweight, eating a highly processed diet, a sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, and inadequate sleep.
- What metrics should I be aware of to monitor my diabetes or diabetes risk?
A simple blood test called hemoglobin A1c (also known as HbA1c or A1c) tests your average blood sugar level over the last 3 months. This is the primary test that determines the severity of diabetes or prediabetes. If you have other health risks, your doctor may also want you to monitor your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and kidney function.
- Does having type 2 diabetes mean that I automatically have to be on insulin?
No. People with type 2 diabetes have many treatment options other than insulin. If diabetes is caught early enough or is not severe, the condition can also be managed with just lifestyle changes. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about your treatment options and discuss which ones fit with your personal health goals.
- If I have diabetes, what additional health conditions should I be screened for?
Diabetes, especially if it is uncontrolled, can put you at risk for many other conditions. In addition to getting your A1c checked regularly, your doctor should also monitor you for high blood pressure (hypertension), elevated cholesterol, eye disease (retinopathy), chronic kidney disease, and nerve damage (neuropathy).
- Rosemary Ku, MD/MBA/MPA