Friday, 24 May 2019
BREAKING NEWS – Chronicle-Tribune

May 04, 2019

AN ONGOING BATTLE: Type two diabetic, Scott Smith, shares his story of battling diabetes over the past 13 years.

By Clay Winowiecki – [email protected]

Grant County’s fifth leading cause of premature death is diabetes, contributing to the county’s 90th overall health outcome ranking out of Indiana’s 92 counties, according to the recently-released 2019 County Health Rankings, published each year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

According to Kimberly Jeffries, certified diabetes educator at Marion General Hospital, 13 percent of Grant’s population of 66,000 suffer from diabetes. The U.S. average is 10 percent, with Indiana’s average at 10.7 percent.

“It’s one of the highest county’s for not just overall health but also for diabetes,” Jeffries said. “We’re tied for the number one county for diabetes in Indiana.”

For Jeffries, the most staggering statistic is that diabetes accounts for $327 billion in economic cost each year in the U.S., making it the most expensive chronicle condition in the country.

In healthier communities, diabetes is less likely to be in the top five reasons for premature death, according to Joe Hinton, a researcher behind the County Health Rankings report.

Hinton typically attributes lower respiratory disease, diabetes, unintentional injuries, such as overdoses, and intention self harm to communities struggling to stay healthy.

Focusing on the diabetes problem

Diabetes is often a challenge for medical professionals to battle as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than one in three Americans suffers from prediabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels are above average, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type two diabetes.

In Grant County, we rank in the top 12-13 percent for people who are categorized as prediabetic, according to Stephanie Gray, an MGH dietitian. This statistic likely means that the number of type two diabetics in Grant County won’t be lessening any time in the near future.

According to Gray, a combination of poverty and food insecurity creates a diabetic poison pill.

“When you take a snapshot of Grant County and see we have five McDonald’s and four Arby’s, for the size of our county, relatively (speaking), we shouldn’t have that many fast food type restaurants,” Gray said.

Generally, people who become diabetic only have vague symptoms at first, such as being thirsty often or frequent urination.

“What we’re hearing is people say I didn’t have diabetes until I’ve had a heart attack, but what they’re not understanding is diabetes can be an underlying cause of so many things,” Jeffries said. “We have people who don’t even know they feel bad then when they’re glucose levels come down. It’s not as well recognized as some conditions.”

Preventing misconceptions

With such a prevalent disease, there are also several myths that are attributed to it as well.

According to Jeffries these include people believing diabetes skips a generation, that weight loss surgery cures diabetes, once you take insulin you always need to take insulin and that drinking vinegar and eating cinnamon will keep diabetes in check.

While none of these are true, there is something to where we live that’s influencing our bad health.

According to Gray, being a rural community where cars are the primary mode of transportation, rather than walking, such as in more urban settings, makes a significant impact.

The state with the most success avoiding diabetes is Utah, where people regularly partake in outdoor activities, but income levels play a role too.

“You also see a correlation in income levels,” she said. “People say it’s more expensive to eat healthy, but it’s not really. People may not realize how much more they’ll (be able to cook) if they buy from the store (rather than buying fast food).”

An ongoing ending battle

According to Jeffries, new diabetics often feel like diabetes is simpler to control than it truly is. One local resident who has found diabetes to be a struggle is Scott Smith, who was diagnosed with type two diabetes around 13 years ago.

“It was just a matter of changing my diet,” Smith said. “(But), I eat simple and if it’s quick and easy I’m eating it. I don’t do a real good job of monitoring my intake on that stuff.”

In 2014, Scott became chronically sick after eating out and drinking 3-5 beers a night with his friends.

“I got deathly ill,” he said. “I didn’t have health insurance at the time, so I just let it go.”

In two weeks he lost 20 pounds and dealt with night sweats. After speaking with a doctor, he decided to get serious about diabetes, but that’s not the end of his struggle. Five years later and he’s recently found out he’s developed arrhythmia – an issue with the rate of one’s heartbeat.

Smith now warns other diabetics to take it seriously.

“It’s not something to play with,” he said. “What are you going to do if you lose your eyesight? How tough is life going to be if you lose a leg? Face it head on and do something about it.”

Finding a way forward

According to Jeffries, diabetics need to balance their medication, the way they eat and their activity, but she said the first thing diabetics often stop doing are activities due to fatigue.

“Keep handheld weights and a stretchy band by where you watch TV,” she said. “If you get up during commercials, get a drink of water and then lift small weights.

“Fatigue is common with high blood sugar so the last thing people want to do is get up and exercise,” she added. “Find little ways to make steps to change that.”

One key to solving the diabetes epidemic is educational outreach, which MGH is spearheading in Grant County.

At MGH, they recently began a new educational program in partnership with Taylor University to help prediabetics.

The program, spelled InVitATION, is taking place in Upland inside MGH’s diagnosis office in its primary care unit.

“(Prediabetics) meet with coaches, who are exercise science, pre med (and) pre nursing (students in addition to) other similar programs,” said Kelley Hochstetler, community education coordinator.

Students meet with prediabetics and work on creating diet plans and exercising to increase mobility.

According to Hochstetler, the program is already seeing positive outcomes with patient weight loss, increased mobility and improved blood pressure among other health benefits.

Taylor University will complete a full statistical analysis on the program this summer to see how beneficial it is to the community. Hochstetler hopes the program expands into other primary care providers soon.


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