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Navigating the Landscape of Diabetes Awareness and Prevention in Kansas

When I was in the 3rd grade, Mr. Jones, a friendly neighbor from down the street, lost his foot due to diabetes It was a sobering moment for our close-knit community, and it left a lasting mark on my young mind. Witnessing the challenges, he faced served as an emotional reminder of the importance of diabetes awareness and education.

One Sunday, shortly after his surgery, Mr. Jones became the focus of our community. Recognizing the significance of proper nutrition in diabetes management, I saw my mother embark on a heartfelt mission to ensure he had nutritious meals while he recovered. As she worked diligently in the kitchen, preparing a week's worth of diabetic-friendly food, I witnessed her dedication and empathy in action. She understood that managing diabetes required more than just goodwill; it necessitated knowledge, informed choices, and regular check-ups.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to diabetes, a widespread and growing health concern, and to promote understanding, education, and proactive measures to prevent and manage the condition.

Approximately 34 million Americans—that's nearly 1 in 10 people live with diabetes. Nationally, African American adults were 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician in 2019 according to the U.S. Department of Health and HUMAN Services Office of Minority Health. In 2020, approximately 1 in 9 (11.1%) Kansas adults reported ever being diagnosed with diabetes. That’s almost 245,000 Kansans. These statistics emphasize the significant health disparities that exist within the Black community, stressing the need for targeted interventions and increased awareness in the African-American community.

Understanding Diabetes Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when there is an elevation of blood sugar levels resulting from either the body's inability to produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the ineffective use of insulin by the body (type 2 diabetes). Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels by facilitating the absorption of sugar (glucose) into cells for energy.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are recognized as two of the most prevalent types of the condition. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to a lifelong dependence on insulin injections. About 5% of people with diabetes have type 1. The risk of having type 1 diabetes is primarily influenced by genetic factors. Individuals with a family history of type 1 diabetes may have a higher predisposition. However, it's important to note that type 1 diabetes can occur in individuals with no family history of the condition and is diagnosed at any age.

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with insulin resistance, where the body's cells do not respond effectively to insulin, and the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to compensate. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is often associated with lifestyle factors. Those at risk include individuals with a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits, smoking, and obesity. Signs, Symptoms, and Strategies for Prevention in Kansas When diabetes is not effectively controlled, it can result in various complications such as heart attacks, strokes, impaired vision, kidney problems, limb amputations, and potentially death. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the State of Kansas. Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of diabetes, can potentially reduce the chances of complications or death. As diabetes advances, these complications often manifest alongside subtle yet crucial signs and symptoms that serve as red flags for the condition. The most common indicators include:

  • Increased thirst

  • Frequent urination

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Blurred vision

  • Slow wound healing.

Recognizing these signs is pivotal for early intervention and effective diabetes management. Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, routine health check-ups, and a proactive approach to a healthy lifestyle can significantly mitigate the risk of these complications and enhance overall well-being.

For type 1 diabetes, where genetic factors play a significant role, prevention strategies focus on early detection and management rather than direct risk reduction. However, for type 2 diabetes, lifestyle modifications are pivotal. Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are powerful tools in preventing type 2 diabetes. These lifestyle choices not only reduce the risk but also contribute to overall well-being.

Comprehensive Guidance on Blood Sugar Monitoring and Management Initiatives in Kansas Regular health check-ups are important for knowing your you and your provider to monitor your levels. The frequency of blood sugar monitoring and the specific targets your doctor sets for you can vary based on your individual health, risk factors, and whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes.

  • If you don't have diabetes and are generally healthy, your doctor may recommend periodic checks during routine exams, such as an annual physical.

  • If you have risk factors for diabetes, such as family history, obesity, or other health conditions, your doctor may monitor your blood sugar more frequently.

  • If you have diabetes, you should consult with your physician to develop a plan, which will vary depending on the type of diabetes and other individual factors.

In Kansas, numerous programs dedicated to the prevention and management of diabetes offer diverse options for individuals at risk of developing the condition and those already diagnosed with diabetes. Some of these initiatives focus on populations at higher risk for developing diabetes. These programs include the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) 1815 Initiative, American Diabetes Association (ADA) 1705 Initiative, and the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction Community Grant Program.

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