Health Secondary Story

Sue Ann Says: It’s Time to Turn the Table on Diabetes in Women!

I am sure you have heard the startling facts on the news. The number of adults and adolescents with diabetes is on the rise all across the United States. But you may not have heard how this chronic disease is affecting our Wisconsin women. November is National Diabetes Month therefore I turned to Pam Geis to gather vital information for you. Pam is a contracted health promotion specialist with the Chronic Disease Prevention Unit, for the State of Wisconsin Division of Public Health.

The Facts Don’t Lie

Current statistics from the CDC show that diabetes affects the health of 582,000 of our adults in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has 420,000 adults diagnosed with diabetes and 162,000 adults that are undiagnosed. Over 1,100 Wisconsin citizens die from diabetes making it the seventh leading cause of death. Wisconsin spends a staggering $6.15 billion in health care and loss of productivity due to diabetes. “Given those facts, and that the CDC says 49.2% of the diabetes population is women that translates to approximately 286,334 women in Wisconsin who have diabetes (both diagnosed and undiagnosed). Why so many undiagnosed? An indicator of type 2 diabetes is a decline in ß-cell function, which can begin up to 12 years before a person is diagnosed with diabetes,” noted Pam.
Pam shared additional statistics from the CDC. Minority populations are adversely affected by diabetes compared to whites. The racial and ethnic differences for diagnosed diabetes in adults by race/ethnicity:

Whites – 7.6%
Asian Americans – 9%
Hispanic/Latino Americans – 12.8%
African Americans – 13.2%
American Indians/Alaskan Natives – 15.9%

Diabetes Complications for Women

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not make a sufficient amount of insulin or the body is not able to use insulin normally. If the insulin is not regulated in the body, high levels of glucose in blood cause dangerous complications. Pam explained that the incidence of diabetes in women and men is a relatively even split. However, women seem to be disproportionately affected by some complications. According to the CDC, women with diabetes have a greater risk of losing their vision than men with diabetes. And, after suffering a heart attack, women with diabetes are also more likely to die or have a lower quality of life than men with diabetes. Women who already have diabetes when they get pregnant are at increased risk of preeclampsia, miscarriage, preterm labor/birth, stillbirth and C-section.
Risks of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

Pam pointed out the risks of developing diabetes type 2. While there are many risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes (age, weight, family history of diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, race/ethnicity, and impaired glucose metabolism), there is one risk factor that is specific to women: gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes generally happens during a pregnancy’s second or third trimester. Gestational diabetes can cause the baby to grow large very quickly during the final stages of pregnancy. While most women’s blood sugar returns to normal after delivery, 5%-10% of women experience continued high blood sugar levels and are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes immediately after delivery. “More startling is the data that suggests gestational diabetes can increase a women’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes within 5-16 years of delivery by 17%-63%. Women with a prior
history of gestational diabetes are also at a 25%-45% increased risk for developing gestational diabetes in pregnancies that follow,” said Pam ( )

Prevention is Key in the Battle Against Diabetes

An emphasis on dietary changes, daily exercise, and glucose monitoring can help you stay healthy after a diagnosis of diabetes. Remember to follow your physician’s guidelines and always seek clarification when you have questions or problems.

Change Your Diet

  • Your doctor may have you consult a nutritionist to set up healthy meal planning to maintain your blood sugar.
  • Portion control, whole grains, fruit and vegetables are good choices to include in your daily meal planning.
  • Weight loss programs, nutrition education and support groups can help you set goals and be successful.

Get Daily Exercise

  • Physical activity can include walking, riding bikes, dancing, yoga or swimming. Move each day!
  • Find a friend or group to exercise with for motivation.
  • In a study of 4,554 women with prior gestational diabetes, every 100 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise (including walking) translated to a 9 percent lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, more time spent in front of the TV was linked to higher body weight and a greater risk for diabetes. (Jama Internal Medicine, May 19,2014)

Monitor Your Blood Sugar

  • Use a glucose meter to monitor your blood sugar each day.
  • Take your insulin or medication as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Keep track of your other health problems and report any changes to your health provider.

November Calls for Action!

This month I want you to become an advocate for your own well-being and an advocate for diabetes prevention. Talk to your health care professional about your risk of diabetes, talk to your family about planning healthy meals and move your feet. If you know a woman who has diabetes, reach out to her and give her support. A small act of kindness, a walk together, or a phone call can give that woman the boost she needs.
Because it all begins with a healthy woman…
Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation
(WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and
their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums
that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health
resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource
materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related
community non-profits. To learn more, visit or call 1-800-448-5148.

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