Diabetes: A Global Explosion, Part II

Spread the News
Caroline May, MBA, MS Nutrition, NBC-HWC

By Caroline May, MBA, MS Nutrition, NBC-HWC

This is part two of a two-part series on diabetes. In part one we discussed the different types of diabetes, as well as risk factors and methods for treatment. In part two, we take a look at pre-diabetes and diabetes prevention.

As mentioned in part one of our blog series on diabetes, diabetes is the world’s fastest growing chronic condition. Globally, 1 in 2 people with diabetes are undiagnosed. In the United States, nearly 9.4% of individuals are currently diagnosed with diabetes, and an alarming 1 out of 3 Americans are thought to have pre-diabetes. This could have a tremendous impact on employers, as discussed in part one, as diabetes can affect workforce productivity and availability.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates diabetes cost employers approximately $90 billion in 2017 in indirect costs alone, which are broken down as follows:

  • Increased absenteeism ($3.3 billion)
  • Reduced productivity while at work ($26.9 billion) for the employed population
  • Reduced productivity for those not employed ($2.3 billion)
  • Inability to work as a result of disease-related disability ($37.5 billion)
  • Lost productive capacity due to early mortality ($19.9 billion)

Before I discuss what employers can do to help employees potentially prevent or delay diabetes, I want to take a closer look at pre-diabetes. What is it? How can you reduce your risk?

What is pre-diabetes?

With pre-diabetes, which is diagnosed by a healthcare provider, a person’s blood sugar is consistently higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be considered diabetic. The CDC reports that 9 out of 10 Americans with pre-diabetes do not know they have it.

The condition of being prediabetic is reversible and therefore is a red flag that a person is on the road to developing type 2 diabetes if things remain the same. However, according to the CDC, up to 30% of overweight men and women with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years of diagnosis. A pre-diabetes diagnosis gives individuals an opportunity to make some healthy lifestyle changes, including addressing unhealthy habits such as smoking and overeating.

What are the recommended lifestyle changes?

If someone has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, a healthcare provider’s recommendations may include the following:

  • Losing weight (often 5% – 10% of current body mass)
  • Developing a healthy eating plan (such as establishing the preferred number and type of carbohydrates per meal, per day)
  • Avoiding blood sugar highs and lows
  • Exercising regularly (150 minutes per week or 30 minute of exercise five days a week)

In addition, it can be helpful for individuals diagnosed with pre-diabetes to measure their blood glucose with a glucometer before and after meals or exercise. Learning how the body reacts can be powerful for those wanting to optimize their health in order to prevent or delay diabetes.

How can you reduce your risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes?

It’s important to discuss your risk of diabetes with your healthcare provider. When you know your risk factors, you can incorporate strategies into your everyday habits that serve to reduce those factors which you can control.  For example you cannot change your age, but if you are obese, you can make healthy choices to reduce your weight.

Suggestions for reducing your risks of developing diabetes include the following:

  • Avoid dehydration, which increases the concentration of blood glucose, by drinking water (not tea, coffee, soda, etc…).
  • Avoid tobacco use and second-hand tobacco exposure.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight. A reduction of 5-10% of your current body mass can change a “pre-diabetes” diagnosis to a “normal” diagnosis.
  • Get educated about a healthy diet. Enlist a dietitian, join a support group in-person or online, check out the American Diabetes Association website.
  • Talk with your doctor about the possibility of alternative therapies like over-the-counter supplements and foods that are associated with managing pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Examples may include fish oil, apples, cinnamon, and green tea.
  • Exercise regularly. This may be walking for ten minutes after every meal or exercising 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes for five days a week. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise —zumba, dance, cardio, strength training, high intensity intervals, swimming, etc… Just make sure you enjoy it and your doctor approves.
  • Be prepared for changing habits. Grow deliberately, be kind to yourself, and remember your main goal.
  • Take inventory of your stress management skills. What do you do to balance demands on your time? How do you take time for yourself and is it enough?
  • Get to know your body and how it reacts to food and exercise by measuring blood sugar with a glucometer. Measure your blood glucose first thing in the morning (FPG). Then again before and after exercise, and again before and after eating. Also measure blood glucose during times of stress or sickness. Record your results on your phone, computer or notebook and discuss these findings with your health care provider.

How can employers help?

The CDC website lists several ways employers can help the workforce better manage diabetes and minimize their risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. These interventions include the following:

  • Conduct health surveys: In addition to obtaining baseline group data on employee health, surveys also help educate individual employees to their needs for counseling and follow-up for specific health concerns.
  • Offer multifaceted employee lifestyle change participation programs: Obesity, nutrition, and physical activity programs in the workplace are critical elements in addressing type 2 diabetes.
  • Offer employees on-site services such as pneumococcal vaccination and yearly flu shots: People with diabetes are almost 3 times more likely to die with influenza (i.e., the flu) or pneumonia.

What types of services are provided by Workplace Options?

Workplace Options partners with corporations globally to provide services designed to maximize workforce wellness and wellbeing. A number of these programs can support diabetes prevention and management, including the following:

  • Wellness Coaching – can help employees and their family members with healthy living goals related to tobacco cessation, nutrition, activity, weight management, and mindfulness programs
  • On-Site Health Screenings – biometric screenings can identify risk factors and red flags
  • Work-Life Support – can help employees and their family members identify resources including local diabetes support groups

For more information on these or other services provided by Workplace Options, reach out email service@workplaceoptions.com or 1-866-792-3610.