Developing pre-diabetes is usually associated with being overweight, inactive, having high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Although only 15.7 percent of Marin adults are considered overweight or obese, according to Healthy Marin, one in every two adults has pre-diabetes. Fortunately, only two percent of the population has actually been diagnosed—so what is the correlation?
Causes for Development of Pre-diabetes
Prediabetes, also referred to as impaired glucose tolerance, is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not enough to merit a diabetes diagnosis. Individuals who are prediabetic face a much higher risk of eventually developing Type 2 and cardiovascular disease later in life.
According to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 46 percent of adults in California—about 13 million people—have pre-diabetes, while another nine percent—about 2.5 million people—are already diagnosed with the disease.
Type 2 is a form of diabetes that restricts a person’s pancreas from producing enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, the prevalence of Type 2 diagnosis increased sixfold in the last 100 years. Diabetes risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity have played a major role in this dramatic increase.
Braden Diabetes Center outpatient dietitian and educator, Katy McDermott, noted that developing prediabetes or Type 2 is not solely related to obesity or physical inactivity. The risk of developing Type 2 or prediabetes also increases with age, and as the average age for residents in Marin County is 46, according to Data USA, the older population is more vulnerable to developing the disease.
“There are several factors that can lead to [diabetes], but a lot of time it is just aging. When we use the term, ‘obese,’ it is based on a Body Mass Index number so you don’t necessarily have to be morbidly obese to still face the risk of developing Type 2 because it doesn’t take that much to affect your health particularly as you are aging,” Roddy said.
Disproportionately Affected Populations
Diabetes disproportionately affects minority populations and the elderly, and its prevalence is likely to increase as minority populations grow and the U.S. population becomes older. According to Avani Bedagkar, a quality improvement manager at Marin County Community Clinics (MCCC), the majority of the clinics’ diabetic and pre-diabetic patients come from lower income neighborhoods pocketing Marin, including parts of San Rafael and Marin City. Bedagkar noted that the prevalence of diabetes among lower income neighborhoods is directly correlated to the inequitable access to resources for poorer neighborhoods.
“In lower socioeconomic classes you have less access to green spaces or safe places to be outside, or even just healthy food to eat. I think that is definitely a leading factor in the higher rates of prediabetes among lower socioeconomic classes in Marin County especially,” Bedagkar said.
The MCCC, with offices in San Rafael and Novato, is the principal provider of medical care to low-income Marin residents. The majority of patients Bedagkar serves rely on Medi-Cal, the Medicaid program in California which provides health coverage to people with low-income and asset levels who meet certain eligibility requirements.
The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes not only increases within lower socioeconomic communities, but is exceedingly higher among minority populations as well. According to a UCLA study, the incidence of pre-diabetes among young adults is 36 percent among Latinos and 38 percent among African-Americans, compared to 29 percent for Caucasians.