November is American Diabetes Month

Nobody ever plans to get sick, yet diabetes is one of the primary causes of disability and death in the United States. Diabetes is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputation. It also leads to more sick days and less productivity in the workplace. One in 11 Americans has diabetes— more than 29 million people. And another 86 million U.S. adults are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes can be tough to notice. According to the American Diabetes Association, “some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed. Early detection of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes.”

Common Symptoms of Diabetes Include:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

If your employees are overweight, have high blood pressure, or are age 45 or older, they are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion annually.

According to Kaiser Family Foundation data, it is estimated that for a company with 1,000 employees:

  • 120 employees have diabetes
  • 34 of them are undiagnosed
  • 370 have prediabetes
  • $3.9 million is the average annual insurance cost for employees with diabetes and prediabetes
  • $724,506 is the annual increased cost if 25 percent of employees with prediabetes develop diabetes

According to Harvard School of Public Health, “if type 2 diabetes was an infectious disease, passed from one person to another, public health officials would say we’re in the midst of an epidemic. This difficult disease, once called adult-onset diabetes, is striking an ever-growing number of adults. Even more alarming, it’s now beginning to show up in teenagers and children.”

The good news is those at risk for type 2 diabetes are able to lower their risk by at least half if they make healthy lifestyle changes. Encouraging diabetes awareness within your workforce is important. Watching weight, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise are the three keys components for preventing type 2 diabetes.

So how can you help begin the conversation about diabetes awareness at your worksite?

Take Action to Increase Your Employees’ Awareness About Diabetes and Healthy Lifestyles:

1. Host a Diabetes Prevention Party focused on healthy eating and physical activity.

2. Encourage your employees to get active! Give away gym passes, fitness class certificates or workout gear. Ask gym staff to do demonstrations or teach a free class. Alternatively, organize lunchtime walks or invite local gyms to showcase their fitness classes and programs.

3. Set a date to host a Diabetes Awareness day at your worksite. Give a fun and engaging presentation on how to prevent type 2 diabetes.

4. Host a cooking demonstration featuring diabetes-friendly recipes. Get local nutritionists involved, if available.

5. Include healthy Thanksgiving recipes in your next newsletter or company email along with quick tips on how to prevent type 2 diabetes.

6. Post tips on how to maintain good health, recognize signs and symptoms of diabetes, and prevent type 2 diabetes on your employee bulletin board, portal, intranet or by email.

7. Host a “revamp that recipe” cook-off where your employees bring in dishes that have been modified to be healthier and diabetic-friendly.

8. Start a lunchtime or after work walking group. According to the American Diabetes Association, “losing just 7 percent of your body weight (which translates to 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) and exercising moderately (e.g., brisk walking) five days per week can reduce your employees’ risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Lifestyle changes also prevent or delay diabetes complications.”