The numbers are staggering, but there are numerous options to prevent illness and the complications developing from diabetes. Business owners and employers can help their team stay healthy and reduce healthcare costs in the long term.
Diabetes is a chronic illness that makes it harder for our bodies to break down the sugar (or glucose) we consume with our food into energy our cells can use.
The hormone responsible for this breakdown process is called insulin. In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas simply does not produce enough insulin. The bodies of type 2 diabetes sufferers do not use the insulin produced efficiently. The result is similar: a heightened blood sugar level.
Whilst type 1 diabetes generally comes on suddenly in children and young people, type 2 diabetes can be delayed or even prevented.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans is currently suffering from a condition known as prediabetes. That means, their blood sugar levels are raised above normal, but not yet to the level where they would be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
That means, 88 million Americans are currently at risk of developing chronic diabetes. However, only just over 15 percent of those are aware that they have this condition. Consequently, 85 percent may be missing out on the opportunity to prevent chronic illness and the complications associated with it.
The CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report cites a total of 16 million visits to the emergency departments of hospitals in 2016 alone, in which diabetes was listed as one of the reasons. Once it is chronic, managing the illness also means managing potential complications.
As blood sugar levels rise and fall rapidly in diabetics, especially when the illness is not well controlled, organs are damaged beyond repair. Almost all type 2 diabetics suffer from high blood pressure. Consequently, their circulatory system weakens, which can lead to chronic blood flow problems in the limbs or – in extreme cases – bursting blood vessels. High insulin levels increase the risk of heart disease.
Untreated diabetes is the leading cause of acquired blindness in adults under 65. Diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves around the retina at the back of the eye. Eventually, this damage will lessen blood flow, and a patient’s vision will degrade. Once this damage happens, it is permanent. Just like with diabetes in general, prevention is crucial when it comes to diabetic eye disease.
High blood sugar levels damage the peripheral nervous system. This part is responsible for managing extremities, including arms and legs. Badly controlled diabetes can lead to pain or tingling sensations in a person’s extremities. This often leads to complete numbness.
Untreated or uncontrolled diabetes also leads to a range of skin conditions. Whilst itchy skin caused by high blood sugar may seem more of an inconvenience, problems soon compound. Lost sensation due to nerve damage in feet and hands already makes them more susceptible to cuts and other problems. Adding to the complication is the increased likelihood of developing bacterial infections. Most of those can be treated with antibiotics, but often take longer to heal in diabetics. In extreme cases, these conditions may require amputation.
Diabetes is also linked to kidney disease and remains the leading cause of dialysis treatment. In addition, hearing impairments are more common in those with diabetes. Moreover, the disease has been linked to the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
The healthcare cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States exceeds $300 billion annually. Diabetes is also a leading cause of unplanned absences from work. Employers stand to lose thousands of dollars every year in an already challenging economy.
However, the good news is that serious, chronic type 2 diabetes is preventable. The development of the illness is closely linked to leading an unhealthy lifestyle and being overweight. Therefore, simple lifestyle changes can lower anyone’s risk of developing diabetes.
Even those already diagnosed with prediabetes can prevent their blood sugar levels from rising further. In some cases, it is possible to reverse prediabetes, with blood sugar levels returning to a normal range.
When it comes to diabetes prevention, changing your diet is often the first line of defense. Eliminating foods high in sugar or unhealthy fats and replacing them with vegetables, for example, can make a big difference. Increasing physical activity and losing weight will also delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Most Americans currently suffering from prediabetes are unaware that their health is at risk.
Encouraging a company culture focused on employee health starts with letting your team understand whether they are at risk. Platforms such as the newly designed diabetes screening tool by TrueCare™ make this easy.
Your team members receive an evaluation of their risk level as well as suggestions on how they can lower that risk. In the long term, the results help prevent excessive absence and rising healthcare costs. Preventing diabetes is worth it.
TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.