Managing Diabetes Helps Employees and Companies

If you plan to indulge in some Halloween candy next week, you might need to eat a salad and run an extra mile or two. If you’re one of the 29 million U.S. adults who suffer from Type 2 diabetes, however, your challenges are more serious.

Diabetes mellitus is an endocrine disorder wherein the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to safely manage blood sugar levels. Sustained high blood sugar levels can cause nerve and organ damage, eventually leading to blindness, liver and kidney damage, amputation of the extremities, and even death. It’s a serious and growing problem, exacerbated by sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition choices, and an increasingly aging population.

More concerning, many individuals with Type 2 diabetes have no idea they have it. Of the 29 million estimated cases in the United States, approximately 8 million of these are undiagnosed, according to the CDC. There can be symptoms, including excessive thirst and increased urination, but these are easily missed. The only accurate way to uncover the disorder is by blood test.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that for a company with 1,000 employees:

  • 120 employees have diabetes.
  • 34 of them are undiagnosed.
  • 370 have prediabetes (some form of glucose intolerance that can lead to diabetes).

The average insurance cost for employees with diabetes and prediabetes is $4 million, with an additional $750,000 annual increased cost if 25% of employees with prediabetes develop diabetes

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Losing weight and exercising moderately (like brisk walking) five days a week can reduce an individual’s risk by more than 50%. Lifestyle changes like better food choices, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol use can also prevent or delay diabetes complications.

Employers can help workers by offering risk assessment screenings, nutrition counseling, exercise and wellness initiatives, and a commitment to healthy living. Diabetes is serious but preventable, so take steps now to help. It’s better for employees and for the company’s bottom line.