Diabetes numbers are worsening as Iowans become more sedentary

WAUKON — Almost one in every ten Iowans is diabetic, and studies show more than 22,000 Iowans are being diagnosed with diabetes every year.

Dr. Kim Hardy, a family medicine physician with Gundersen Health, says diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy — and it’s getting worse because of our lifestyles.  “We, in general, are a sedentary society. We have cars, we don’t walk a lot of places. We work long hours so it makes it difficult to exercise,” Hardy says. “A lot of our food and the affordable food is processed. Highly-processed food increases blood sugars, which increases risk for diabetes.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health says diabetes is the number-one cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult-onset blindness. Nationwide, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death. Hardy says it costs more to eat healthy, and we could be sacrificing good health to save a few dollars.  “To keep fruits and vegetables that haven’t gone bad, you have to go to the grocery store frequently, and it makes it an extra challenge,” Hardy says, “and as I mentioned, financially, it’s also a burden paying for the fruits and the vegetables. It certainly costs more than noodles, rice, all those carbohydrates.”

There’s no cure for diabetes, though you can be considered in remission if you’re off the meds for three months and the A-1-C blood sugar levels are being maintained.  Hardy says, “We know that through some dietary changes, exercise, working with our dietitians to help tweak your diet, can really help to improve your overall health and can help to control your diabetes or even put you into remission.”

Gundersen is treating more than 11,000 people with diabetes.