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Report: Diabetes on the rise in Alabama

A recent report from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama shows the diabetes epidemic growing in Alabama, especially in individuals ages 18-34.

According to BCBS, in 2016 more than 171,000 of its insureds in Alabama have a diagnosis of diabetes, representing a 24.4 percent increase from 2014. Almost 11,000 of those insureds are ages 18-34, which represents an alarming 29 percent increase.

The 18-34 age group not only shows the most rapid increase in diabetes diagnoses, but is also seeing the greatest growth in obesity rates in the United States. Obesity is known to be a key contributor to the onset of diabetes.

According to Russellville physician Dr. Jeffrey Chenyi, diabetes is one of three serious health issues he sees on the rise among his patients. In an interview with the Free Press last year, Chenyi attributed many of these problems to the area’s sedentary lifestyle.

“There is an increased issue of obesity here, along with hypertension and high cholesterol, and that leads to other serious health issues,” Chenyi said.

A native of Cameroon, Chenyi said the active lifestyle in his home country led to much fewer diagnoses of diabetes.

“In Cameroon we had some obesity, but the lifestyle with more physical activity was much more active than it is here,” Chenyi said. “In Cameroon, there’s a low incidence of diabetes and hypertension. Diet is one reason. Secondly, it’s the difference in lifestyle. Less than half the people own cars, so they do a lot of walking. Families are physically active. Diet as a whole makes a difference.

“The human body is designed like a Pacman game. We’re built to work for food. People in Cameroon, even when they’re eating, do something extra. The typical dish is not one you can eat in 30 minutes. It’s not like processed food, where you can consume a thousand calories on three bites.”

While developed-society lifestyles lead to more medical problems with their sedentary nature, the good news is the standard of medical care is higher in these places than other countries, Chenyi explained.

The BCBS study finds that diabetes has the highest health impact on communities in the Southeast and Central South, more than 50 percent higher than the national average. And, nationally, diabetes ranks third in terms of its health impact on quality of life and cost for the commercially insured among more than 200 health conditions.

Diabetes is ahead of high cholesterol, substance abuse and coronary artery disease. The two health conditions ranked ahead of diabetes are depression/anxiety/mood disorders and hypertension, according to www.bcbs.com.

BCBS is working with its insureds diagnosed with diabetes through education, awareness and member advocacy programs that include health advocates, disease management programs, online trackers and medication planners and educational texts and videos. For more information on diabetes and its effect on the American population, visit https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports.

Chenyi Family Medicine is located at 15225 Highway 43, Suite I in Russellville. The clinic is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 256-331-2700.

Chenyi is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and he specializes in comprehensive care for the entire family.

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