Annual rates of new diabetes cases on the rise in SWLA

Diabetes in SWLA

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - In addition to COVID-19, Diabetes continues to be a nationwide health crisis. The latest data shows some parts of Southwest Louisiana lead the country in terms of case count.

New health rankings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that more than 19 percent of adults in both Allen and Cameron Parish have diabetes, which is higher than the national average, which currently stands at 13 percent.

Dr. Timothy Gilbert, a local endocrinologist, relayed some factors that play a role in the prevalence of the disease in our region.

”We see much, much higher rates than the general U.S., and a lot of these patients are much sicker than the general U.S. population,” Gilbert said.

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a map highlighting the Diabetes Belt. The most recently available data shows the problem still exists in the same areas.

In 358 of the 662 counties in the Appalachian and Delta regions, adults had higher-than-average diabetes rates. In the U.S., an average of 13 percent of adults have diabetes.

2020 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings

Allen: 19.2%

Cameron: 19.4%

Calcasieu: 10.4%

Beauregard: 12.8%

Jeff Davis: 10.0%

2016 US Diabetes Surveillance System Data:

Allen: 12.7%

Beauregard: 13.0%

Calcasieu: 10.9%

Jefferson Davis: 10.9%

Cameron: 7.2%

Gilbert has studied the diabetic trend in Southwest Louisiana for 17 years.

”I think the thing that worries me the most is the age at which they’re diagnosed,” Gilbert said. “We’re diagnosing more and more patients in their teenage years and in their 20′s with severe disease.”

Diagnoses have reached increased levels in the more rural sectors of Southwest Louisiana like Cameron and Allen Parish.

”With a huge prevalence of American Indians, less education, lower socio-economic income, those are all factors in Allen Parish. Cameron is a lot of the same thing, but for those, the access to health care is not the best down there.”

Gilbert oversees the only endocrinology practice in the region and says access plays a crucial factor in local cases.

”I was the only endocrinologist in Southwest and Southcentral Louisiana for 8 years. Access to endocrinologists is definitely limited and even more limited in the uninsured population.”

Gilbert says strategies to tackle diabetes, such as diet and exercise, take on a whole new meaning in a storm-ravaged community.

”Most days, 25 to 30 percent of my patients are not living in their home. Some are in apartments, but a lot are in campers. You can’t exactly cook a healthy meal for a family in a camper day in and day out.”

Dr. Gilbert hosts monthly clinics in Allen Parish where there’s a large portion of Native Americans impacted by diabetes.

He says more education is needed along with more doctors in the endocrinology field.

6 Tips to Manage Diabetes

  • Know your ABCs: A1c, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol. Get regular medical check-ups and make sure to get your eyes and feet checked for problems.
  • Cook at home. You can find healthy recipes on DiabetesFoodhub.org.
  • Sit less and move more. Enjoy walks, stretching and other activities that can help you get 150 minutes of weekly activity.
  • Review medications. Ask a pharmacist to review your list of medications and talk with your doctor about an affordable prescription if necessary. You can find help with medication resources in the Diabetes Resource Directory.
  • Take a diabetes education class. Local hospitals offer free, small group diabetes self-management classes to help you keep your blood sugar in check. These interactive sessions are currently offered in person and provide you with the information and support you need to better manage your diabetes.
  • Quit using tobacco. Smoking and using tobacco increases your risk of developing serious health problems associated with diabetes. For help quitting tobacco, call 1-800-QUITNOW.

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