How You Can Lower Your Risk

From the GIC Winter 2006 Newsletter pdf format of fybwinter2006.pdf

Eat right, exercise, and maintain your ideal body weight. You have heard it many times, but more and more Americans are overweight, leading to alarming increases in the prevalence of diabetes, a disease in which the body is unable to produce or unable to properly use and store glucose, a form of sugar. In fact, excess weight is the single most important cause of type 2 diabetes. Those who are overweight are 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes, according to a 2003 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) study.

More than 20 million Americans, about 7% of the population, have diabetes. From 1997 through 2003 the number of new cases of diagnosed diabetes increased by 52%. The typical American born today has a one in three chance of developing type 2 diabetes according to the National Library of Medicine. Sadly, almost 30% of the people with diabetes are not aware that they have it, and another 41 million have prediabetes.

Diabetes and its complications kill more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. According to Conquering Diabetes, diabetes can shorten your lifespan by 10 to 15 years. In addition to premature death, complications of diabetes affect the heart, eyes, gums, kidneys, circulatory system, nerves, liver and skin.

GIC members are not immune to the risks of type 2 diabetes. At last year's health fairs, GIC members participating in the complimentary health screenings had their non-fasting glucose measured. Although the non-fasting measure is not as accurate as a fasting test, it provides an indicator of risk. Thirty-four percent of GIC participants had blood glucose values of 110 mg/dL or higher - half of these had prediabetes and half had provisional diabetes! Additionally, the majority of GIC participants (63%) were overweight or obese, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease body mass index guidelines, significantly increasing their risk for diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease, even for those at risk. Family history, ethnicity (African American, Hispanic or Native American), age of 45 or more, excess weight, physical inactivity and high blood pressure put you at risk. To delay or prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends:

  • Daily exercise of 30 minutes or more at least five days a week, which will lower your blood sugar and help you with your weight: Physical activity causes sugars to be transported to your cells, where they are used for energy, which lowers sugar levels in your blood.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are high in nutrition and low in fat and calories, while reducing animal products and sweets in your diet.
  • Get routine screenings: If you have any risk factors for diabetes and are under age 45, ask your doctor for a fasting plasma glucose or a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test. Regardless of risk, get screened routinely beginning at age 45.

The bottom line - stay lean and stay active: Numerous clinical trials have shown that type 2 diabetes is preventable with lifestyle changes. Ninety percent of type 2 diabetes cases are attributable to excess weight, lack of exercise, a less-than healthy diet, smoking, and excess alcohol, according to a Nurses' Health Study. Smokers are 50% to 90% more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, according to an American Journal of Public Health study. It is never too late to take charge of your health to delay or ward off getting diabetes!

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will work with you to help you keep it under control and avoid complications. In addition to daily checks of your glucose level, following your medication schedule, and the lifestyle changes outlined above, your health care team should ensure you get yearly eye exams, have annual urine tests, monitor your cholesterol levels and oral health, keep your vaccinations up to date, and check your feet daily for discolorations, swelling, pus or unusual changes. These disease management interventions will be critical to your quality of life and longevity.

GIC Health Plans Offer Diabetics a Variety of Programs to Keep Them Healthy

Commonwealth Indemnity Plans : Members with diabetes receive personalized programs, which may include an intensive two-and-a-half days diabetes education program, quarterly individualized recommendations, educational materials and/or a personal nurse health educator who can provide education and support. Contact 1-800-942-7224 for additional details.

Fallon Community Health Plan : Members with diabetes receive telephonic support by a Registered Nurse, as well as educational mailings. For additional details, contact 1-800-833-2535 ext. 69490.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care : Members with diabetes can take advantage of MyDiabetes, an online support program offering an interactive diary and an online forum. For additional details, contact 1-888-888-4742 ext. 38230 or register on HPHC's website.

Health New England: Members with diabetes can take advantage of HNE's disease management workshops, educational materials, and virtual education programs. HNE's Living Well Grocery Store Tour™ provides members with shopping education at Big Y supermarkets. A licensed registered dietician helps you review food labels for carbohydrate, sodium, fat and cholesterol content to help you make healthy food choices. This tour is also available free to HNE members in VHS and CD-Rom formats. Contact 1-800-842-4464 ext. 3553 for additional details.

Neighborhood Health Plan: Members with diabetes are assigned a Care Manager who provides benefit assistance and patient-doctor support. For additional information call 1-800-432-9449.

Tufts Health Plan: Tuft's Taking Charge™ Diabetes Program helps diabetics take control of their disease with educational materials and patient-doctor support. Call 1-800-870-9488 for additional details.

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .