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Kentucky’s diabetes problem continues to worsen; rate now seventh highest nation at nearly 13 percent

The number of adults with diabetes and pre-diabetes in Kentucky continues to rise, according to the 2019 Kentucky Diabetes Report. The number of adults in the state with diabetes has nearly doubled since 2000 to 12.9 percennt, or more than 440,000 adults. In 2000, that rate was 6.5%. Kentucky ranks seventh highest in the nation for this measure. November is National Diabetes Month.

Most adults in Kentucky with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when a person’s body becomes resistant to insulin, the hormone that helps the body use blood sugar for energy, or stops producing enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Because of this, their blood sugar levels rise. A person with type 1 diabetes makes no insulin and needs to take some every day to live.

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The diabetes rate is even greater in Appalachian Kentucky, where 17% of the population has been diagnosed with the disease, compared to 11.2% in the non-Appalachian counties. They were also higher among Kentucky’s Medicaid population, 16.2%.

Pre-diabetes rates have also gone up, with one in 10 Kentucky adults being told they had pre-diabetes in 2017, or more than 288,000 people. That rate was 7.8% in 2011, the first year it was measured.

That said, it is estimated that one in three Kentucky adults, or 1.1 million, have pre-diabetes.

Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body’s blood sugar levels are abnormally high, but not quite high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.

And while many think that pre-diabetes is nothing to worry about, often saying they have “just a touch of sugar,” it should be taken seriously because it puts that person at high risk of getting type 2 diabetes, which can cause a long list of health conditions.

The Mayo Clinic says type 2 diabetes “dramatically increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and narrowing of blood vessels” and can also lead to nerve, kidney, and eye damage, slow healing, hearing impairment, skin conditions, sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s disease.

Diabetes can be deadly. In 2016, Kentucky had the fourth highest mortality rate due to diabetes, an increase from 14th in 2014, says the report. It also points out that four of the five area development districts with the highest diabetes death rates were in Eastern Kentucky. The district with the highest diabetes death rate was the Pennyrile ADD in Western Kentucky.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person is at risk for developing pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes if they are overweight, 45 or older, have a family history of type 2 diabetes, are physically inactive or have ever had gestational diabetes or given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds. African-Americans, Hispanic and Latinx Americans also have a higher chance of developing the disease.

The CDC says that you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with simple, proven lifestyle changes such as losing weight if you are overweight, eating healthier foods, and getting more exercise.

The report found that only 60.4% of Kentucky adults have been screened for diabetes or pre-diabetes, and screening rates have remained essentially the same since 2011.

From Kentucky Health News

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