By Ana B. Ibarra
Despite diabetes having reached epidemic proportions in recent years, complications related to the disease are on the decline, according to a new federal study.
Data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows some complications triggered by diabetes have plummeted substantially in the past two decades among U.S. adults.
For the new study, the CDC monitored diabetes-related complication rates from 1990 to 2010 for diabetics age 20 or older.
Rates of heart attacks, strokes, lower limb amputations, end-stage kidney failure and deaths due to high blood sugar have all dropped.
According to the report, cardiovascular complications and deaths from high blood sugar decreased by more than 60 percent each. The rates of both strokes and lower extremity amputations declined by about half, and rates for end-stage kidney failure fell by about 30 percent.
“These findings show that we have come a long way in preventing complications and improving quality of life for people with diabetes,” said Edward Gregg, lead author of the study. “While the declines in complications are good news, they are still high and will stay with us unless we can make substantial progress in preventing type 2 diabetes.”
Although complications have declined, the number of adults reporting diabetes during this time frame has tripled. The CDC estimates that nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and an additional 79 million are at risk of developing the disease. The center also reports that diabetes and its complications account for $176 billion in total medical costs each year.
From 2010 to 2012, Merced County recorded an average of 55 deaths a year due to diabetes. Merced County is ranked No. 51 of the state’s 58 counties for diabetes-related mortality, with No. 1 Amador County having the fewest diabetes-related deaths and No. 58 San Bernardino County having the most deaths on the list compiled by the California Department of Public Health. .
Janon Pittz, a diabetes educator at the Center for Diabetes in Merced, said the decline in diabetes-related health problems can be attributed to an increase in access to care, new technology, improved medication and a boost in community education.
Pittz, who has been a certified diabetes educator for 10 years, said the Central Valley tends to have a high incidence of diabetes because of demographics. “We probably have a higher rate because of of our diverse population,” she said. “We have Hmong and Native American communities and a large Hispanic population who all have a higher prevalence of diabetes.”
Merced County offers a variety of programs to help residents control and prevent diabetes, Pittz said.
Among the resources available is diabetes education classes at the Mercy Education Outpatient Center, 2740 M St.
Lillian Sanchez, a community health educator and an instructor for the classes, said education is key in combating the disease. During the classes, residents learn how to test their blood sugar at home and how to reduce complications.
The biggest concern among those who take the classes is nutrition-related, according to Sanchez.
“The biggest area of frustration for patients is food and meal planning” she said. “They usually have a hard time grocery shopping and selecting foods that they can eat.”
Diabetes classes are offered Tuesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Mercy Education Outpatient Center. Call the Mercy Education Center at (209) 564-4384 for more information.