Facing the Diabetes Epidemic

April 13, 2017

Dr. Paul Mulhausen, Chief Medical Officer

It is time for all of us to heed the call for action to deal with the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes that is happening all around us and to us. To our knowledge, mankind has never experienced anything like this in our past – historical or pre-historical. We know that we can stem the tide of this epidemic with a program of lifestyle changes and it is time for us to embrace the opportunities.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 29 million Americans are now living with diabetes, and that another 86 million are living with prediabetes, a health condition that increases a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and other health problems. That’s over one-third of the people in the US, who are either dealing or at high-risk of the ill effects of diabetes.

Prediabetes markedly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes have abnormal blood sugar regulation, with blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be characterized as diabetes. If left unchecked, about one-third of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. 

Risk Factors and What Can be Done?

The risk markers for both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are similar and include the following:

  • Being overweight,
  • Being 45 years or older,
  • Having a family history of Type 2 diabetes,
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week, and
  • Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.

The CDC recommends that people with one or more of these risk factors speak with a healthcare provider about getting their blood sugar tested. Given that about half of us are physically active less than 3 days a week, and that the average adult man has a body mass index that is just barely under the medical definition of obese, a lot of us should be having our blood sugar tested for prediabetes and diabetes.  

Diabetes Prevention Program

Although the prediabetes and diabetes epidemic is sobering in its severity, there is something that we can be doing about it! In fact, there is an effective lifestyle treatment program that can effectively prevent the progression to diabetes for those who are found to have prediabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program is a scientifically-proven treatment program that slows or prevents the development of Type 2 Diabetes in those who have been found to have prediabetes. The effectiveness of the DPP was highlighted in a now classic medical article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to the CDC, people who use the DPP to treat their prediabetes reduce their risk of developing diabetes by about 60%, and the benefits of the DPP have been shown to last for at least 10 years.

DPP Success Story

I know for a fact that the DPP works – the science supports it and it worked for me. I was diagnosed with prediabetes! With a program of health coaching, change in diet, and regular physical activity, I returned my blood sugar metabolism to normal – reversing the rate of progression to diabetes.   

Workplace DPP

Workplace Diabetes Prevention Programs present an incredible opportunity to both improve the health of individual employees with prediabetes and help employers manage their healthcare costs. The CDC and the American Diabetes Association estimate that the average medical costs of a person with diabetes is $13,700, of which $7,900 is directly spent on treating the diabetes. The DPP cuts the risk of diabetes in half for about $300 – $500. One study even found cost savings that averaged out to $129 per participant after three years. The DPP curriculum for employees with prediabetes or at high-risk for type 2 diabetes holds immense potential as a high value health benefit investment in workplace health and wellness.

The diabetes epidemic is upon us. The numbers are staggering and include the ravaging complications of diabetes and their associated healthcare costs. Let’s break the back of this epidemic with a broad strategy to make available the benefits of the Diabetes Prevention Program. Let’s take this opportunity to heed our call for action.  

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