New statistics show diabetes among adults 20 and older in Allen County is trending upward, with diagnosed diabetes climbing from 7 percent in 2004 to 10 percent in 2009. The state rate is 9 percent.
According to the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, it is estimated that one in three American adults has a condition called pre-diabetes – and is at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Local health officials estimate that more than 21,000 seniors in Allen County have pre-diabetes.
Across the nation, about 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which means that their blood glucose, or blood sugar, is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetic. Of those, only about 7 percent are aware of their condition, according to the health department’s latest statistics.
Pre-diabetes has no symptoms and most people do not realize their health is at risk until they develop full-blown diabetes, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan said.
At risk are those who are minorities, overweight, 45 or older or active less than three times a week. Those with a family member with diabetes, or a woman who developed diabetes while pregnant, or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more are also at risk.
“Studies show that many with pre-diabetes can thwart the disease by exercising and losing just 7 percent of their body weight,” McMahan said.
Indiana was 27th in the nation for the number of deaths from diabetes in 2010. The latest available figures from 2010 show that nationwide, 22.5 in every 100,000 people died from complications of diabetes.
That number was 20 in 100,000 in Allen County, and 22 in 100,000 statewide.
“Diabetes and obesity go hand-in-hand; the rising numbers parallel each other,” McMahan said.
The YMCA, Lutheran Health Network and Parkview Health System all offer diabetes risk assessment, prevention and educational classes.
Type 1 diabetes is usually genetic, while Type 2 is directly related to lifestyle choices, said Wendy Spitznagel, community wellness director for the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne.
The YMCA is one of 211 centers across the nation that offer diabetes prevention programs.
“We’ve facilitated 130 participants in our classes in the last 18 months,” Spitznagel said.
Spitznagel works with local health providers to identify those with pre-diabetes. The classes – 16 one-hour sessions – teach participants how to adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles.
There is a fee for the classes, but financial help is available when needed, she said.
The YMCA offers diabetes prevention classes in Allen, Wells, Kosciusko and Whitley counties.
Sheryl Scott, program director for Parkview Diabetes Center, said that while the number of pre-diabetic patients has risen, much of that can be attributed to aggressive diagnostic tests and assessments on the part of physicians.
“Often, with cholesterol, blood or other routine screens, the doctors will diagnose pre-diabetes,” Scott said.
Lifestyle changes can be an effective preventive measure, according to Scott, but sometimes the changes might not produce immediate results and medication might be necessary.
The economic burden of diabetes topped $245 billion in 2012, Scott said.
Among states, California has the largest population with diabetes and thus the highest costs, at $27.6 billion. Florida’s population is fourth among states behind California, Texas and New York, but it is second in diabetes-related costs at $18.9 billion, she said.