Health Report: Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners discusses Diabetes Awareness Month

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 4:10 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and Foundation Health Partners (FHP) in Fairbanks shared some insight into the disease to help spread that awareness.

According to Heather Powers, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with FHP, over 10% of people in the United States are diabetic.

“In the United States, there are about 34 million people of all ages with diabetes,” Powers explained. “That’s about 10.5% of the population, and that’s with diabetes overall. There’s about 88 million people with pre-diabetes, and that’s actually about a third of the population - that’s 35% of the U.S. population with pre-diabetes, and about eight out of ten adults don’t know that they have pre-diabetes.”

And according to Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, an Endocrinologist with FHP, those numbers are growing. “This percentage is increasing every year,” he elaborated. “Of that 10%, two-thirds are diagnosed - which is around 27 million - and one third are undiagnosed, which basically means that they fulfill the lab criteria, but they are not aware of it or they do not label themselves as diabetic. So, one third of patients with diabetes are undiagnosed.”

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 2 diabetes can occur due to a set of risk factors in an individual’s life. “There are some risk factors to be aware of,” Powers remarked. “Of course like we’ve talked about, [there’s] a history of pre-diabetes. There is also a history of gestational diabetes which is diabetes during pregnancy. Being overweight, age 45 and older is a group of people who are at higher risk, [or] if there’s a family history of diabetes in a parent or a sibling. If somebody is physically active less than three times a week, or more physically inactive, then that can be a risk factor as well, and there is an increased risk in certain ethnic groups.”

However, according to Powers, Type 1 diabetes occurs because of an unknown cause. “Type 1 diabetes is considered to be an autoimmune disease. We don’t know what exactly causes it at this point in time, maybe there’s some genetic predisposition. It can be diagnosed at any age but we may see that more often in children, teens, and young adults.”

And the presentation of Type 1 diabetes is changing over time according to Dr. Ahmed. “The disease presentation for Type 1 diabetes is evolving. There are a number of diseases which are changing and evolving. They used to be something else and now we are looking at a different presentation. This is happening with Type 1 diabetes as well. In the past, this autoimmune breakdown used to happen all of a sudden and happens at an earlier age. So kids used to present with Type 1 diabetes, now this is happening slowly and progressively. So we are seeing adult patients with Type 1 diabetes who take much longer to present themselves.”

The risk of diabetes also varies depending on ones ethnicity. Dr. Ahmed said, “The risk of diabetes is not the same in different ethnic populations and in different patients with different heritage. Certain populations are more at risk for developing diabetes - and the point I want to make, which is very important, is these people who are at risk of developing diabetes develop [it] at a lower weight. They gain less weight and they develop diabetes, so they are at higher risk - especially patients who are Native Alaskans, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic Asians.”

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