If type 2 diabetes was an infectious disease, passed from one person to another, public health officials would say we're in the midst of an epidemic. This difficult disease, once called adult-onset diabetes, is striking an ever-growing number of adults. Even more alarming, it's now beginning to show up in teenagers and children.
The problems behind the numbers are even more alarming. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure among adults. It causes mild to severe nerve damage that, coupled with diabetes-related circulation problems, often leads to the loss of a leg or foot. Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, and it's the seventh leading cause of death in SD.1
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. About 9 cases in 10 could be avoided by taking several simple steps: keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking. We now know that smoking causes type 2 diabetes. In fact, smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.2
Investing in local resources to support and build a healthy community where people live, learn, work and play is integral to long-term health promotion and prevention of all chronic diseases, not just diabetes. Chronic diseases and associated risk factors continue to be the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in South Dakota and the United States. While chronic diseases are largely attributable to individual health behaviors, there is a growing body of evidence that recognizes that multiple factors shape health.
Prediabetes is a warning sign! Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be prevented. Ignoring this warning sign may result in type 2 diabetes within five years. Prediabetes means your blood glucose (sugar) is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. One in three American adults has prediabetes, and most do not even know they have it.
The good news! Losing 5 to 7 percent of a person's weight and increasing their physical activity can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by a whopping 58 percent! Diabetes is a serious disease that can cause heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, or loss of feet or legs.
You are at an increased risk for developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if you:
- are 45 years of age or older;
- are overweight;
- have a family history of type 2 diabetes;
- are physically active fewer than three times per week; or
- ever had diabetes while pregnant which disappeared after the delivery (gestational diabetes) or gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.
Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented in people with prediabetes through effective lifestyle changes including:
- eating healthy
- being more active
- losing weight
- stop smoking
For help making these lifestyle changes enroll in a National Diabetes Prevention Program.
The National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) is a CDC-recognized and evidence-based lifestyle change program – in person or online – developed specifically to prevent type 2 diabetes. It is designed for people who have prediabetes or are at risk for type 2 diabetes, but who do not already have diabetes.
A trained lifestyle coach leads the program to help you change certain aspects of your lifestyle, like eating healthier, reducing stress, and getting more physical activity. The program also includes group support from others who share your goals and struggles.
This lifestyle change program is not a fad diet or an exercise class. And it’s not a quick fix. It’s a year-long program focused on long-term changes and lasting results.
A year might sound like a long commitment, but learning new habits, gaining new skills, and building confidence takes time. As you begin to eat better and become more active, you’ll notice changes in how you feel, and maybe even in how you look.
To learn more about what it’s like to be in a lifestyle change program:
Are you interested in starting a National Diabetes Prevention Program at your organization?
Some groups of people are affected by prediabetes and diabetes more than other groups. Differences in health status or access to health care among racial, ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic groups are referred to as health disparities.
The South Dakota Diabetes Program is working to end health disparities in high-risk and vulnerable populations.
Diabetes may be up to two times more prevalent in low-income populations compared to wealthy populations. Families of low income are more likely to experience food insecurity, the state of being without reliable access to sufficient quality affordable, nutritious food. Food insecurity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and household food insecurity is more prevalent when a household member has diabetes. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are more likely to have type 2 diabetes than any other US racial group. The Native Diabetes Wellness Program honors a balance between cultural practices and Western science in Indian Country to promote health and help prevent type 2 diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives who are at risk. The program supports wellness and diabetes awareness by collecting and retelling stories about tribal efforts to reclaim traditional foods; developing a series of colorful books for children to promote healthy eating and physical activity; and providing access to other helpful resources, all free to order or download.
The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in American Indians is 16%, compared to 8% of whites in South Dakota. American Indians with diabetes have a greater rate of years of potential life lost (YPLL) before the age of 75 than whites, 1,110 years and 115 years YPLL, respectively. (Source: 2018 SD BRFSS)
Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI)
Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) have higher rates of diabetes than non-Hispanic white Americans. Diabetes is the 5th leading cause of death for these populations. Statistics from 2010-2012 show that nationally 16.5 percent of Asian American adults had diabetes, compared to 9.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
The National Diabetes Education Program has designed diabetes prevention and management resources specifically for AANHPI communities. These resources can be used by community health workers, diabetes educators, and healthcare providers to meet the needs of these groups.
Among some non-Hispanic Asians, the age-sex-adjusted percentage of adults living with both diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes was:
- 23% of South Asians
- 22% of Southeast Asians
- 14% of East Asians
African Americans and People of African Ancestry
Diabetes is one of the most serious health problems that the African-American community faces today. Compared to the general population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes.
African American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.
Hispanic/Latino American adults are more than 50% likely to develop diabetes at a younger age. Diabetes complications also hit harder: Hispanics/Latinos have higher rates of kidney failure caused by diabetes as well as diabetes-related vision loss and blindness.
Why the greater risk for type 2 diabetes and its complications? These factors can play a part:
- Genetics: Hispanics/Latinos have genes that increase their chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is very complicated, though, and the connection isn’t completely clear.
- Food: In some Hispanic/Latino cultures, foods can be high in fat and calories. Also, family celebrations may involve social pressure to overeat, and turning down food could be seen as impolite.
- Weight/activity: Hispanics/Latinos have higher rates of obesity and tend to be less physically active than non-Hispanic whites. And some see being overweight as a sign of good health instead of as a health problem.
It’s important to keep in mind that these risk factors are general and may not apply to individual Hispanic/Latino people or specific Hispanic/Latino groups. Among some Hispanics, the age-sex-adjusted percentage of adults living with both diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes was:
- 25% for Mexicans
- 22% for Puerto Ricans
- 21% for Cuban/Dominicans
- 19% for Central Americans
- 12% for South Americans
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health (Consumer Booklet). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.