Can anything be done to help prevent diabetes? Terri Kridl, Director of Product Development at INTERVENT International,1 shares her insights on this all important subject for multinational employers.
Diabetes is one of the most common, costly and deadly chronic diseases in the world.2 Strictly speaking, diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be prevented and controlled – and, in some instances, type 2 diabetes can be reversed.3
When you eat sugars and starches (carbohydrates), your body changes them into a form of sugar called glucose. Glucose enters the blood and is carried to all the cells of the body where it is ready to be used for energy. The hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, is responsible for moving the glucose out of the blood and into the cells.
People with diabetes have problems regulating the amount of glucose in their blood. When left untreated, blood glucose levels increase and cause damage to blood vessels and certain organs in the body.3
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Two main types of diabetes3
There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. With type 1 diabetes, too much glucose builds up in the blood because the pancreas is either completely unable to produce insulin or is able to produce only a tiny amount. People with type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin medication, usually in the form of injections, for the rest of their lives.
With type 2 diabetes, too much glucose builds up in the blood mainly because the cells become resistant to the insulin that the pancreas makes. People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to take noninsulin diabetes medications to help keep their blood glucose levels within a normal range. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1 diabetes, but
it is just as serious a medical condition and should never be taken lightly.4
Many years before people develop type 2 diabetes, most of them develop prediabetes. Prediabetes is when someone has a blood glucose level that is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes can be thought of as an early stage of type 2 diabetes because a very high proportion of people with prediabetes go on to develop diabetes.
From the moment a person develops prediabetes, their risk of damage to the arteries also starts to increase. Damage to the arteries causes heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney damage and other serious problems. This immediate increase in risk has been called the “ticking clock” hypothesis.3,4
If prediabetes develops, it is critical to get blood glucose values back within the normal range as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are risk factors that can alert individuals and their healthcare providers that prediabetes and type 2 diabetes could develop in the future – more on this shortly!
What are the risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes?
There are a number of key risk factors, including:3,4,5
blood glucose or A1C blood test values compatible with a diagnosis of prediabetes on previous testing
overweight or obese (body mass index or “BMI” greater than 25.0 or greater than 23.0 in Asians)
age 45 years or older
high blood pressure
relative with diabetes (mother, father, sister or brother)
high-risk race/ethnicity (Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander)
women who developed diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
women with a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome.
According to a 2020 US national diabetes statistics report, of people with diabetes, 21.4% were not aware that they had it, and only 15.3% of persons with prediabetes reported being told by a health professional that they had this condition.6
Early detection of prediabetes makes it possible to reverse it, prevent its progression to type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The same blood tests are used to both screen for and diagnose prediabetes and diabetes.
Anyone with symptoms suggestive of diabetes should immediately be tested.
Symptoms of diabetes
Be sure to know the symptoms of diabetes and see your health care provider immediately for a test if symptoms appear. The most common symptoms are:
unexplained weight loss.
Overweight and obesity are the strongest risk factors for developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in adults. For all adults without diabetes symptoms, testing to screen for prediabetes typically should be considered beginning at:
If results are normal, testing should be repeated at a minimum of every three years. People who are diagnosed with prediabetes should be re-tested for diabetes every year.3,4,5
Strategies for preventing prediabetes and diabetes
Thankfully, there are things that can be done by employers to help their people. But before that, let’s look at some things that we can do ourselves to prevent diabetes.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight by following a healthy eating plan (especially limiting foods with added sugar, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats) and exercising regularly (at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, on most days of the week for a total of at least 150 minutes each week).
For people who are overweight or obese
For those diagnosed with prediabetes
How employers can help their people prevent prediabetes and diabetes
Promote awareness and education about the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly.
Offer a confidential health assessment so that your workers can assess their risk for prediabetes and diabetes.
Encourage your people to have a blood test for diabetes. Hold an on-site screening, if feasible.
Plan a campaign to celebrate World Diabetes Day on 14 November every year.
Offer comprehensive lifestyle management programmes that address healthy eating, weight loss/management and regular exercise.
When selecting foods for an employee event, offer healthy choices including fresh fruits and veggies, wholegrain products and lean protein foods. Provide healthy choices in company cafeterias and vending machines, if applicable.
Thanks for the insights, Terri. If you want to find out more about this all-important subject, complete the form below to download a short audio podcast. You can also view INTERVENT’s page on our website or contact your MAXIS GBN representative.7
1 INTERVENT International LLC incorporated and registered in United States of America whose registered office is at 340 Eisenhower Drive, Building 1400, Suite 17, Savannah, GA 31406, United States of America
2 World Health Organization. Diabetes. April 13, 2021. Accessed at https://www.who.int/health-topics/diabetes#tab=tab_1
3 INTERVENT International. Preventing Prediabetes and Diabetes. 2021
4 American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2021. Diabetes Care 2021;44(suppl 1):S1-S232.
5 US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA 2021;326:736-743.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf
7 MAXIS GBN may receive fees, commissions and/or other remuneration from third parties in connection with the services we carry out for you.