Diabetes diagnoses trending up in Yampa Valley
Certified diabetes educators and physicians across the Yampa Valley say both diabetes and prediabetes diagnoses continue to increase locally.
“We are seeing obesity rates increase, so we are also seeing some increased rates of diabetes. Certainly, I think it’s on the uptick,” said Dr. Kevin Borgerding at Yampa Valley Medical Associates who has treated local diabetes patients since 1994.
Traditionally, the active population in the Yampa Valley has been less prone to diabetes, but as the population has increased, changed and aged on average, and lifestyles have become more sedentary, local diabetes rates have risen, Borgerding said.
Estimates show one in three Coloradans has prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes within six years, said Gabi Johnston, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“Throughout the pandemic, many people deferred preventive care and might have also been more sedentary or changed their diet,” Johnston said. “These changes could have put people more at risk of diabetes.”
Johnston said the diabetes prevalence rates in Routt County averaged 2.3% from 2014 to 2016 and rose to 9.2% from 2018 to 2020, although the stats include a margin of error.
“Type 2 diabetes is most commonly directly linked to weight as the population gets heavier in general,” Borgerding said, noting doctors have become more diligent about checking patient blood sugar levels as diabetes rates increase across the U.S.
The internal medicine doctor said his strongest recommendation is for people to pay attention to any family history of diabetes.
“If you have any genetic predisposition in your family and you are overweight, then you are at significant risk. Diabetes is directly correlated to weight and genetics,” Borgerding said.
Selene Cooper, a registered nurse with Moffat County Public Health, said 11.6% of the Moffat County population was living with diabetes from 2016 to 2018, an increase from 6.8% during 2008-2010, according to CDPHE data. The nurse cited state data showing six deaths were attributed to diabetes in 2019-2020 in Moffat County and seven deaths the previous data year.
Cooper tied the increase to a variety of factors ranging from burdens of medical care costs and thus residents skipping checkups, to residents gravitating toward inexpensive fast food.
Dr. Borgerding said, traditionally, Type 2 diabetes was considered a disease of older individuals, but his take-home message is diabetes is affecting more younger people due to weight increases.
Carol Bolt, a certified diabetes care and education specialist at Memorial Regional Health in Craig, said she is seeing more younger diabetes patients.
“What I see is there are more overweight adolescents and teenagers that have prediabetes,” Bolt said.
‘What can I eat?’
Bolt said the most common question she hears from prediabetes patients is, “What can I eat?”
“It’s important to understand that all carbohydrates are converted to sugar in your blood, so it’s not that you can’t have carbs, it’s being careful how many you have at the time,” Bolt said. “Watch portions of carbs and make sure to get protein with every meal.”
Recommended by Pam Wooster, UCHealth, registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator
• 2 c. salad greens
• 1 red bell pepper – cut thin, lengthwise pieces
• ¾ c. fresh or thawed frozen corn
• 1 tomato – cut into ¼” dice
• 1 ripe mango, cut into ¼” dice
• 1 avocado, cut into thin slices
• ½ of 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
• ¼ c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
• Olive oil
• 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
• 3 tbsp. fresh orange juice
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh shallot
• 1 tbsp. honey
• 1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
• 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1. Cook corn over medium-high heat in olive oil until slightly charred, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. Whisk lime juice, orange juice, garlic, shallot, honey, cilantro and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. In a chilled salad bowl, combine ingredients. Drizzle dressing to taste and garnish with cilantro. Cover and chill for 15-20 mins.
Bolt’s first recommendation is to avoid sugary, caloric drinks. She encourages patients to plan out the week’s meals in advance and read nutrition labels.
“If people catch their diabetes in prediabetes or early Type 2, and change lifestyles moving more to plant-based diets and becoming more active, they can reduce their risk for diabetes,” said Pam Wooster, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
She advocates for moving toward a plant-based diet to combat or even reverse prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 38% of U.S. adults age 18 years or older had prediabetes in 2017-2020.
Borgerding said people with prediabetes generally do not show symptoms, but he said increased central obesity or abdominal weight can be an early warning sign.
Warning signs for Type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC, may include frequent urination, feeling very thirsty, losing weight without trying, blurry vision, numbness or tingling in hands or feet.
Starting in August, Wooster will offer community diabetes education classes featuring a recipe demonstration and discussions. Class topics may include: how a plant-based diet can support health, diabetes and mental health, blood sugars and foods, and the importance of hydration. Class registration will be posted at uchealth.org/events or individuals can call 970-870-1048.
“This is a disease that’s preventable, and it’s very treatable without medication if patients are successful with weight reduction and lifestyle changes,” Borgerding said.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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