Living Well: Baptist Health doctors fighting growing levels of diabetes in Arkansas

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The numbers of patients with diabetes in Arkansas keep growing, and Baptist Heath doctor Chandra Lingisetty says the pandemic is making it worse.

“Trouble for people accessing their health care and their support teams so on and so forth,” Lingisetty explained.

With more people putting their annual health appointment on hold, doctors worry this will lead to more problems down the road. And while staying home to be safe is best, getting in regular exercise is important, too.

“Genetic and maybe environmental factors, lack of exercise, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle are the main reasons for Type 2 diabetes,” Lingisetty said. “And Type 1 diabetes is mostly genetic.”

The doctor said 15 percent of Arkansas adults are diabetic, but physicians are just as worried about folks who are at high risk of developing the disease. That group makes up about 35 percent.

“Every other adult Arkansan you bump into is either a diabetic or a pre-diabetic,” Lingisetty said to put the numbers in perspective.” So 50 percent of our population has something to do with it. That’s a lot.”

The hospital is doing something about that growing through the various programs it offers, like classes focused on diabetes management and prevention.

Sharon Aureli works for the hospital as a Clinical Quality Manager, but she still has a family history of diabetes and signed up for programs and sees benefits already.

“I personally achieved a weight loss of 20 pounds,” Aureli said. “My A1C lowered from 5.8 to 5.4.”

From nutrition and exercise classes, to support groups, Aureli credits it all for the positive changes she’s seen in her life.

“In our particular group, we were able to stop the possibility of these people getting diabetes through the weight loss, through the exercise, and to me that is profound,” she said.

The hospital hopes to reach more people who are at risk, because not only is this a health problem in Arkansas, but from an economic impact, Lingisetty estimates diabetes and pre-diabetes intervention costs will reach $5 billion in the next few years.

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