Toddler Changes His Own Dexcom on TikTok: Advice From His Mom

TikTok has become more than just a place to dance along to the latest trend; it has become a platform for advocacy for many issues, and diabetes has received increased exposure thanks to this social media app. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a TikTok of a very young boy putting on his own Dexcom G6! And he did it with confidence, bravery, and pride. I wanted to share Daxon’s story in the hopes that it inspires others as well. I reached out to his mom who was gladly happy to chat.

Hi Cassie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I would love for our community to get to know Daxon a little better! He is such a great role model for other children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D)!

At what age was Daxon diagnosed and what were the symptoms?

Daxon was diagnosed exactly 1 month from his second birthday at 23 months old.

He started to get a bad temper spring of 2019 and we never understood why. He would get so upset so easily and we just thought it was because of terrible twos. In July, he threw up twice one morning for no reason and out of the blue. He started throwing up at nighttime multiple nights in a row and only at night. I took him to his pediatrician, and they told me “it’s probably the stomach bug, it’ll pass” but I told him “but randomly like that? It doesn’t make sense”.

After about two weeks, it stopped until August. He threw up one more time in the morning and then stopped. Once again, we had no idea why. At the end of August he started drinking and peeing excessively. What really gave it away was that he was drenched from head to toe in pee after a 2-hour nap period one day and that was it. I checked his sugar and it was 461 mg/dL (borderline DKA).

How did you as a family adapt to your new normal?

Honestly, we are still trying to adapt. We take it day by day because it is always changing. The one thing about diabetes is that no matter what, it is different each day. Even if you do the same exact thing, sugars will change.

Did you change Daxon’s and/or your family’s diet at all? What are his favorite go-to foods that don’t wreak havoc on his blood sugars? I’m sure lots of moms could use some tips!

I did not completely change his diet, but I do swap stuff out for healthier carbs and a lower glycemic index. He does low-carb bread, cheese, and crackers instead of mac-n-cheese, Go-Gurts, Two Good yogurts instead of the higher-carb ones, chicken meatballs instead of chicken nuggets, Fairlife milk instead of others  (because of his milk allergy, but it is better carb-wise also), keto-friendly cereal because others spike so much that I cannot get it down for hours, keto-friendly bread only because the GI level is so much better. There are some other changes, but the family has not changed any really. He does still eat candy, it is just more in moderation than before.

His go-to foods are pork rinds eggs, a brownie bar called “Good to Go”, keto-friendly ice cream, yellow bell peppers, broccoli, really any vegetable, cheese sticks, pepperoni, lollipop suckers. Any time we are out Chik-fil-A, grilled chicken and fruit are a must. That is all I can think of right now.

Photo credit: Cassie Daniels

At what point did you start using the Omnipod and Dexcom G6? How did Daxon handle that? 

The Dexcom was a month after being diagnosed and he did not handle it well at first. We would have to hold him down to get him to let me put it on. It was a nightmare but once he watched a friend of ours put her’s on and she told him “you have a robot just like me” he got used to it and now it is normal. When his phone tells us it’s time to change it, he’ll tell me “robot needs changed” and he will 100% do it solo now which is amazing.

The Omnipod was a little different. His first endo wouldn’t approve it because they thought he would take it off, so we had to wait but once we switched to a different hospital, they got him on it right away; so, he was about 7 months in when he was able to get the pod. At first, once again — NOT a fan and it was horrible — but once he learned it meant “no more shots” he was perfectly fine with it (sometimes). We will scream — and I mean scream  — the song “Baby Shark” so he will not hear the clicking for the needle and that seems to help also. He is currently working on putting the insulin in his pod so he is super excited about that.

I know I personally prefer shots, but am often intrigued by the control some pumpers get. Do you find using the pump helps make blood sugar management easier?

The pump for us personally is a lot better for different reasons. Omnipod allows such a small dose, so even 1 gram of carbs he would get some insulin, but with shots, we would have to round up or down, which meant [more fluctuations for him]. Also, in the middle of the night, being able to give him insulin without even touching him has been great. I hated waking him up to poke him with a needle. Also, when on the go we can dose from the front seat of the car. However, if he ever decides that he wants to stop the pump and go back to shots I will support him and what he wants 100%.

@cdaniels2015

95% completely solo 💙💙💙💙 He’s get the hang of this soooo quickly 😭🙏💙 #typeonediabadass #BigBoy

♬ Bang! – AJR

I couldn’t believe my eyes when my diabestie, Hillary Emmons,  sent me this TikTok of Daxon changing his own Dexcom! I am so impressed and inspired! At what point did he express interest in doing that?

After about six months of being a type 1, he has always been curious about everything. He has been checking his own sugar with the meter since about 6 months in when needed to be checked. And recently he was really showing interest in the Dexcom and doing it solo. He did half of it one day and then the next change he did it completely on his own, all I did was hold it and help place it. I never asked him to do it because I didn’t think he was ready for that task yet but that day he told me “I do it” and that was it. Now he is showing interest in some of the Omnipod stuff, which is amazing because he feels in control.

I give you credit as a parent for letting him own his management and giving him the confidence to know he can manage his disease! What would you like to tell other parents about how to get children to want to be a part of their daily care?

Make it positive, make it fun, and make it normal. We have the JDRF bear and we practiced on that since being diagnosed. At first, we used it so he could understand more of it. We also got his big brother and all the other family members involved since day one. We check everyone’s sugars, so it is normal for everyone. All the children in our family (our boys and our 3 nieces) have been very curious about it since day one.

I see you are using TikTok as a platform for awareness and this one video alone got over 103,000 likes! Kudos! What would you like people to take away from your videos?

I want people to know the signs of T1D and to normalize it. I hate when I see people hide that they check their sugar or even giving their self insulin. I want to help parents have a voice for their children because doctors sometimes do not listen, and we need to be loud for our children and to follow their gut. I have a lot of people say that he encouraged their children to try putting the Dexcom on solo and I love that it is helping other children also. One of my TikToks potentially saved a child from dying. Her sugar was almost 1000 mg/dL and she was in DKA and doctors were surprised she wasn’t in a coma. Children should not die for people [not being able] to figure out what is wrong!

Does Daxon enjoy making the TikTok videos? I think “injecting” some humor and fun is the best medicine of all! And one you can all do together as a family!

Daxon loves showing people his stuff. He knows it makes him unique and he loves seeing others who are like him. So, when people duet his videos and they show their Dex or pod it’s helpful for him also to see that there are others like him.

Photo credit: Cassie Daniels

What else does Daxon like to do with his free time when he’s not managing his diabetes and TikTok’ing?

Daxon is a typical boy and I mean ALL boy. He rough houses with his brother, loves to color, help with dishes, cooking, loves to read books, play outside, ride his 4-wheeler, and absolutely loves cuddling with me. I think him being a T1D made our bond even stronger.

How does Daxon feel about being a TikTok sensation and knowing that he is helping to inspire many other children just like himself!

I have told him many times that he is helping other children and I don’t think he really understands what it means yet, but he always smiles and says “they have a robot like me” or he’ll go “yay that makes me happy”. I ask him “do you want to make a video?” and normally he’ll tell me “yessss let’s make a video”. I will never make him make TikToks so if he tells me no then I’ll leave it alone.

I ask this in every interview! Do you think they’ll be a cure in Daxon’s lifetime?

100% honestly I do not foresee a cure ever. They make way too much money from insulin (when it should be free, but that’s another story for another time). I wish there would be a cure, but I don’t see it happening.

Daxon

Photo credit: Cassie Daniels

What advice helped you? Can you pass it along to parents of newly diagnosed children?

My advice for parents is:

  1. Take one day at a time because it is an always-changing, never-stopping, headache of a disease.
  2. Do your best and never get down on your child for their blood sugars. That is the one thing I will never do to Daxon, anytime he has “bad” sugars, I never express it to him or show it on my face because it is not his fault, so I don’t want him to feel like he is failing.
  3. Always tell your child they can still do anything they like and never change activities. Just change foods to help [manage sugars during] the activities. For example, we took Daxon and his brother to a trampoline park and I knew his sugar was going to drop. He started at 170 mg/dL and dropped to 50 mg/dL. I was prepared with milk, yogurt, chocolate, and others, so he could still have fun and be a kid.
  4. Try not to have a fight if sugars are not in range, because everything is magnified if high or low. So what I do with Daxon if he is high or low and has a temper tantrum, I ignore it and let him do what he needs to do. Once he calms down, we discuss what happened and I explain I understand he doesn’t feel good but he doesn’t need to act that way.
  5. Treat them like you would any other child because diabetes does NOT define them.

Where do you see going with your advocacy and awareness on social media or elsewhere? Do you have other plans in the future?

I would love to bring more awareness to this disease. I would love for there to be a law that pediatricians must check A1c every year or every other year. They check your iron, and they check lead so why not diabetes? [Some] pediatricians think that younger children cannot get diabetes until at least six years old which is not true. It is ridiculous because a child’s death is avoidable if people were more aware of the signs and doctors tested when they should.

Thanks again Cassie, we really appreciate you taking the time! I look forward to continuing to follow Daxon’s journey and see how many kids he inspires along the way!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Metformin May Reduce Your Risk of Death from COVID-19 Infection

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Eliza Skoler

The use of metformin – the most common initial medication for people with type 2 diabetes – was associated with a lower rate of mortality from COVID-19 among people with diabetes in a study in Alabama, confirming five previous studies.

Do you take metformin? It’s the first-line therapy used to lower glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A recent study found that metformin use was associated with a lower rate of COVID-related death among people with type 2 diabetes. Since people with diabetes are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death, the relationship between metformin and COVID outcomes in this report may be of interest to many people around the world who take the medication.

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The study looked at the electronic health data from 25,326 people tested for COVID at Birmingham Hospital in Alabama, including healthcare workers, between February and June of 2020. Of those tested, 604 people were positive for COVID-19 – and 239 of those who were positive had diabetes. These results showed that the odds of testing positive for COVID were significantly higher for people, particularly Black people, with certain pre-existing conditions, including diabetes. This does not mean people with diabetes are more likely to get COVID-19, only that people with diabetes were more likely to test positive at this hospital.

Importantly, the study found an association between metformin use and risk of death – the study reported that people who were on metformin before being diagnosed with COVID-19 had a significantly lower chance of dying:

  • People taking metformin had an 11% mortality (or death) rate, compared to 24% for those with type 2 diabetes not on metformin when admitted to the hospital.
  • This benefit of metformin remained even when people with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease or chronic heart failure were excluded from the calculations. This is important because people with kidney or heart disease are often advised against taking metformin. By removing this population, it helps to support the notion that metformin may be involved in this difference.
  • Body weight and A1C were not associated with mortality among people with diabetes taking metformin. This suggests that the association of metformin use with reduced COVID-related deaths was not due to the effects of the medication on weight or glucose management.

The data suggest that being a person with diabetes who takes metformin may provide some level of protection against severe COVID-19 infection among people with diabetes. Other studies have shown similar results, though it is not known whether metformin may itself reduce COVID-related deaths among people with type 2 diabetes. The authors discussed some previously reported effects of metformin beyond lowering glucose levels, such as reducing high levels of inflammation (the body’s natural way of fighting infection), which has been described as a risk factor in severe COVID infection. Severe infection with COVID-19, resulting in hospital admission, can lead to damage to the kidneys and decreased oxygen supply to the body’s tissues – and in these circumstances, serious side effects of metformin can occur.

“Given that COVID leads to higher mortality rates and more complicated hospital courses in people with diabetes, it is important to consider whether specific diabetes medications can provide some relative degree of protection against poor COVID outcomes,” said Dr. Tim Garvey, an endocrinologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “This study adds to growing evidence that people with type 2 diabetes treated with metformin have better outcomes than those not receiving metformin.”

Dr. Garvey also cautioned: “Of course, these case-control studies show associations and do not rise to the level of evidence that might be found by a randomized clinical trial. For example, people with diabetes not treated with the first-line drug, metformin, may have a larger number of diabetes complications or longer duration of disease compared with people not on metformin – which could explain the more severe outcomes. In any event, we advocate for early administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other protective measures for people with diabetes.”

Professor Philip Home, a professor of diabetes medicine at Newcastle University in the UK, agreed, saying, “Multiple studies have now addressed the issue of whether metformin and insulin use are associated with better or worse outcomes in people with diabetes who contract COVID-19. In line with previous literature on other diseases, it was expected that people on metformin would do better, and people on insulin worse, than people with diabetes not using these medications. This is confirmed.”

Home continued: “It is believed to happen because people using metformin are younger and have better kidney function than those not taking the medication, while those on insulin tend to have other medical conditions. The good news is that if you have type 2 diabetes and are taking metformin, you are likely to be fitter than if you have type 2 diabetes and do not take the medication – but there is no evidence that metformin itself will make a difference to your outcome if you do get COVID-19. So, get vaccinated as soon as possible!”

To learn more about metformin, read “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Metformin, But Were Afraid to Ask.”

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Getting the Most Out of Your Remote Healthcare Visits

This content originally appeared on Integrated Diabetes Services. Republished with permission.

By Gary Scheiner MS, CDCES

A long, long time ago, before the days of coronavirus, there was a little diabetes care practice called Integrated Diabetes Services (we’ll just call it IDS for short). IDS taught people with diabetes all the wonderful things they can do to manage their diabetes. Word got out, and people who lived far from IDS’s local hamlet (better known as Philadelphia) wanted to work with IDS. Even people IN the hamlet wanted to work with IDS but were often too busy to make the trip to the office. So IDS had an idea: “Let’s offer our services via phone and the internet so that everybody who wants to work with us can work with us!” The idea took off, and IDS grew and grew.

And virtual diabetes care was born.

Today, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual healthcare has become a virtual norm. Often referred to as “telehealth” or “telemedicine,” people with diabetes are connecting with their healthcare providers for everything from medical appointments to self-management education to coaching sessions. Some consults are conducted via phone calls, while others utilize web-based video programs (like Zoom) or simple email or text messages. Regardless of the form, virtual care can be highly effective. But it can also have its limitations. Whether you’ve been receiving virtual healthcare for months or have yet to give it a try, it pays to learn how to use it effectively. Because virtual care will certainly outlive the pandemic.

What Can… and Can’t… Be Accomplished Virtually

Most diabetes care services, including medical treatment and self-management education, can be provided effectively on a remote basis. We have managed to teach our clients everything from advanced carb counting techniques to strength training routines to self-analysis of glucose monitoring data, all while helping them fine-tune their insulin program, on a 100% virtual basis.

Some clinics and private healthcare providers have gone 100% virtual since the pandemic began, while others are using a “hybrid” approach – periodic in-person appointments with virtual care in-between. Depending on the reason you’re seeking care, a hybrid approach makes a lot of sense. While virtual visits are generally more efficient and economical (and in many cases safer) than in-person appointments, there are some things that are challenging to accomplish on a remote basis. From a diabetes standpoint, this includes:

  • Checking the skin for overused injection sites
  • Learning how to use medical devices (especially for the first time)
  • Examining the thyroid gland and lymph nodes
  • Evaluating glucose data (unless you can download and transmit data to your provider)
  • Performing a professional foot exam
  • Listening to the heart rhythm and feeling peripheral pulses
  • Checking for signs of neuropathy and retinopathy
  • Measuring vital signs (unless you have equipment for doing so at home)

The Logistics

Virtual care can be provided in a variety of ways, ranging from a phone call to an email, text message or video conference. Video can add a great deal to the quality of a consultation, as it allows you and your healthcare provider to pick up on body language and other visual cues. It also permits demonstrations (such as how to estimate a 1-cup portion of food), evaluation of your techniques (such as how to insert a pump infusion set), and use of a marker board for demonstrating complex subjects (such as injection site rotation or how certain medications work).

When using video, it is important to have access to high-speed internet. A computer is almost always better than a phone for video appointments, as the screen is larger and has better resolution. If you have the ability to download your diabetes data, do so and share access with your healthcare provider a day or two prior to the appointment. It may also be helpful to share some of your “vital” signs at the time of the appointment – a thermometer, scale, and blood pressure cuff are good to have at home.

In many cases, care provided on a remote/virtual basis is covered by health insurance at the same level as an in-person appointment. This applies to public as well as private health insurance. However, some plans require your provider to perform specific functions during the consultation (such as reviewing glucose data) in order for the appointment to qualify for coverage. Best to check with your healthcare provider when scheduling the appointment to make sure the virtual service will be covered. At our practice (which is 100% private-pay), virtual and in-person services are charged at the same rates.

If security is of the utmost importance to you, virtual care may not be your best option. Although there are web-based programs and apps that meet HIPPA guidelines, there really is no way to guarantee who has access to your information at the other end. My advice is to weigh the many benefits of virtual care against the (minuscule) security risk that virtual care poses.

Optimizing the Virtual Experience

Just like in-person appointments, virtual care can be HIGHLY productive if you do a little bit of preparation.

  • Do yourself and your healthcare provider a favor and download your devices, including meters, pumps, CGMs, and any logging apps you may be using, prior to the appointment. If you don’t know how to download, ask your healthcare provider for instructions, or contact our office… we can set up a virtual consultation and show you how. If you have not downloaded your information before, don’t be intimidated. It is easier than you think. People in their 80s and 90s can do it. Oh, and look over the data yourself before the appointment so that you can have a productive discussion with your healthcare provider.
  • Be prepared with a list of your current medications, including doses and when you take them. Check before the appointment to see if you need refills on any of your medications or supplies. If you take insulin, have all the details available: basal doses (and timing), bolus/mealtime doses (and dosing formulas if you use insulin:carb ratios), correction formulas (for fixing highs/lows), and adjustments for physical activity.
  • Try to get your labwork done prior to virtual appointments. This will give your healthcare provider important information about how your current program is working.
  • To enhance the quality of the virtual meeting, do your best to cut down the background noise (TV off, pets in another room, etc…) and distractions (get someone to watch the kids). Use of a headset may be preferable to using the speakers/microphone on your phone or computer, especially if there is background noise or you have limited hearing.
  • Use a large screen/monitor so that it will be easy to see details and do screen-sharing. And use front lighting rather than rear lighting. When the lights or window are behind you, you may look more like a black shadow than your beautiful self. “Ring” lights are popular for providing front-lighting.
  • Provide some of your own vitals if possible – weight, temperature, blood pressure, current blood sugar. This is important information that your healthcare provider can use to enhance your care.
  • Prepare a list of topics/questions that you want to discuss. Ideally, write them on paper so that you can take notes during the appointment. If there is a great deal of detail covered, ask your healthcare provider to send you an appointment summary by mail or email.
  • Be in a private place that allows you to speak openly and show any body parts that might need to be examined – including your feet and injection/infusion sites.
  • Be a patient patient! Technical issues can sometimes happen. It is perfectly fine to switch to a basic phone call or reschedule for another time.
  • Courtesy. Be on-time for your virtual appointment. If you are delayed, call your healthcare provider’s office to let them know. And if you are not sure how to login or use the video conferencing system, call your provider beforehand for detailed instructions. This will help to avoid delays. Have your calendar handy so that a follow-up can be scheduled right away. Oh, one other thing: Try not to be eating during the appointment… it is distracting and a bit rude. However, treating a low blood sugar is always permissible!

If there is one thing we’ve learned during the pandemic, it’s that virtual care is a win-win for just about everybody. Expect it to grow in use long after the pandemic. In-person care will never go away completely, but for treating/managing a condition like diabetes, virtual care has a lot to offer… especially if you use it wisely.

Note: Gary Scheiner is Owner and Clinical Director of Integrated Diabetes Services, a private practice specializing in advanced education and intensive glucose management for insulin users. Consultations are available in-person and worldwide via phone and internet. For more information, visit Integrated Diabetes.com, email sales@integrateddiabetes.com, or call (877) 735-3648; outside North America, call + 1-610-642-6055.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Is COVID-19 Causing a Diabetes Epidemic?

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on into its second year, researchers have discovered a new, disturbing trend: there has been a statistically significant rise in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes diagnoses observed in patients after an experience of severe COVID-19. Even more disturbing is that nearly 14.4% of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 go on to have either a type 1 or type 2 diabetes diagnosis, according to a November 2020 study that followed nearly 4,000 patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

It’s too early to tell if these forms of diabetes are permanent or temporary, but the correlation between severe COVID-19 cases and the development of diabetes is strong.

It’s well known that viruses can sometimes trigger diabetes. When someone contracts a virus, the immune system starts mounting a defense to fight it, mostly with T-cells. Sometimes the body will overreact, and start destroying its own pancreatic beta cells, the result being type 1 diabetes.

Scientists believe the same thing may be happening in the case of COVID-19 patients. Traditionally, COVID-19 has been an attack on the lungs, but a host of other issues and complications have come to light from sufferers of “long-haul COVID”: neurological disorders, blood clots, kidney failure, heart damage, and now many believe an epidemic of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes diagnoses may soon be added to the list.

The association between other coronaviruses and the development of diabetes has been made in the past during the SARS outbreak as well.

After the 2003 SARS pandemic, Chinese researchers tracked 39 patients who had developed high blood sugar levels characteristic of a diabetes diagnosis, within days of hospitalization with the disease. For all but six, blood sugar levels had returned to normal by their hospital discharge, and only two still had diabetes after two years.

This isn’t entirely new, either. Doctors in Wuhan, China reported a link between COVID-19 and elevated blood sugar levels back in April 2020. Italian scientists also looked into whether higher blood sugar levels could lead to a diagnosis of diabetes. That study, from May 2020, admitted more research needed to be conducted before a conclusion was reached.

Because COVID-19 is a global pandemic and the link to new diabetes cases has been observed in multiple countries, researchers globally are collecting data points about those patients in a registry called CoviDIAB.

Scientists do not know whether COVID-19 might exacerbate already developing issues or actually cause them; some believe it’s both. Many people who have had COVID-19 and have gone on to develop type 2 diabetes already have existing risk factors, such as obesity and a family history of the disease. Perhaps the increased medical attention sought out by people suffering from COVID-19 has detected the disease early, when a diagnosis was inevitable later on down the line anyway. Some medical experts believe that more people are getting medical attention than ever before, being closely monitored by experts in the field, and are unveiling underlying issues that may have been there all along.

Another theory is that elevated blood sugar levels also are common among those taking dexamethasone, a steroid that is a common treatment for COVID-19. Steroid-induced diabetes is rare, but not unheard of, and may trigger diabetes in people who have no known health risks for the disease.

“Researchers are working like crazy to see if COVID attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, which makes insulin,” pediatrician Dr. Dyan Hes said. “Some studies feel that they do, but other studies have been repeatedly saying it is not attracted to the beta-cell.”

How exactly the two conditions are connected isn’t quite clear yet, but a prominent theory is that the COVID-19 virus destroys or alters insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas possibly by binding to ACE2 receptors, according to a short letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Whatever the association is, researchers from the journal of Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism say a direct effect of COVID-19 on the development of diabetes, “should be considered.”

Francesco Rubino, a diabetes surgery professor at King’s College London, is convinced there is a connection between the two conditions and has been tracking and studying the phenomenon since early last year. “We really need to dig deeper, but it sounds like we do have a real problem with COVID and diabetes.”

Additionally, Rubino thinks the type of diabetes being developed as a result of COVID-19 may be a hybrid form, something of a cross between type 1 and type 2. His findings show that the symptoms in these patients have some characteristics of each form of diabetes, which he finds concerning.

Researchers are also now seeing a rise in type 2 diabetes diagnoses in children who have had asymptomatic COVID-19, which is even more troubling, as many schools are back in session, many public places do not require masks on children, and the tipping point of a diabetes epidemic may rest solely on the shoulders of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens.

This can also complicate a few things for people: firstly, that neither the Pfizer-BioNtech nor the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are approved for children, and secondly, that type 1 diabetes is not being prioritized on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list for vaccine dissemination. States are able to follow their guidance or dismiss it out of hand, but federally, there is no coordination to prioritize the population.

With nearly 10% (34 million people) of the United States already affected by diabetes, and another 100 million living with prediabetes, the tidal wave of COVID-19 cases could very well send our country into catastrophe fighting two disasters at once: both uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 along with a (COVID-triggered) explosion of new diabetes diagnoses, especially in children. This would not only send our country into panic mode but could also completely overwhelm our already fragile health care system that everyone is so heavily relying on.

Scientists are rushing to find the exact connection between severe COVID-19 cases and new diagnoses of diabetes, but between diabetes being a major risk factor for death in COVID-19 cases (nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths have been in patients with diabetes), along with the increased risk of developing diabetes from a severe bout of COVID-19, one thing is for sure: we need to find the connection and fast and get the diabetes community and those at risk for diabetes vaccinated as quickly as possible. We don’t have time to waste.

 

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Study Compares MiniMed 780G and MiniMed 670G Algorithms

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Albert Cai

A new study in adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes directly compared two automated insulin delivery algorithms. Medtronic’s newer Advanced Hybrid Closed Loop (built into the MiniMed 780G system) improved glucose management more than the MiniMed 670G, though both systems showed impressive increases in Time in Range for this population. Ultimately, the 670G gave users over an hour and a half more time in range each day, while the 780G gave wearers over two hours every day in range!

Two Medtronic automated insulin delivery algorithms, the Advanced Hybrid Closed Loop and the MiniMed 670G, were recently compared in a cross-over study, allowing 113 participants to use both algorithms. Results from the study were published in the medical journal The Lancet. Notably, the study tested this technology in adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes ­– a group for which diabetes management is notoriously challenging. View our resources for adolescents with diabetes here.

For an introduction to automated insulin delivery (AID), check out our piece on current and coming-soon AID systems in 2021.

What is the MiniMed 670G?

The MiniMed 670G is an AID system that has been available since spring 2017 – it was the first system ever to “close the loop.” The system includes the MiniMed 670G pump, the Guardian Sensor 3 continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and an automated insulin adjustment algorithm. The algorithm adjusts basal insulin delivery every five minutes based on CGM readings, and a target of 120 mg/dl.

What is Advanced Hybrid Closed Loop?

Advanced Hybrid Closed Loop (AHCL) is Medtronic’s next-generation AID algorithm. The AHCL algorithm is used in Medtronic’s MiniMed 780G system, which is currently available in at least twelve countries in Europe. While it is not yet available in the US, Medtronic hopes to launch the 780G in the US this spring. In addition to automatic basal rate adjustments, the AHCL algorithm can also deliver automatic correction boluses and has an adjustable glucose target that goes down to 100 mg/dl. This is big news because many people using closed loop do not want to target the higher 120 mg/dl, even as a safety measure. The 780G algorithm is designed to have fewer alarms and even simpler operation than the MiniMed 670G system.

What was the study?

The newly published FLAIR (Fuzzy Logic Automated Insulin Regulation) study was conducted over six months across seven diabetes centers (four in the US, two in Europe, and one in Israel). The study enrolled 113 adolescents and young adults (ages 14-29) with type 1 diabetes. The study sample is notable, because teens and young adults with type 1 diabetes have the highest average A1C levels of any age group.

At the beginning of the study, participants performed their usual diabetes management routine for two weeks to establish their baseline glucose levels. Half of the group was then randomly assigned to use the MiniMed 670G system, while the other half of the group used the same pump and CGM, but with the new AHCL algorithm. After three months – the halfway point of the study – the two groups “crossed over,” switching to the opposite technology.

What were the results?

Nearly every measure of glucose management favored the AHCL period over the MiniMed 670G:

  • Compared to baseline, participants reduced time spent above 180 mg/dl by 1.2 hours per day when using MiniMed 670G and 1.9 hours per day when using AHCL.
  • Time in Range (TIR, time between 70-180 mg/dl) improved from a baseline of 57% to 63% using Minimed 670G and to 67% using AHCL.
  • Time spent below 70 mg/dl fell 0.2% of the time. While those 28 minutes a day may not be statistically significant – and time in severe hypoglycemia, or below 54 mg/dl, did not increase from baseline when using either algorithm – many people with diabetes would benefit from that additional half hour in range.

The graph below shows the time spent in glucose ranges during baseline, MiniMed 670G, and AHCL periods. For both algorithms, the Time in Range increase from baseline was significant – use of either AID system led to at least 14 hours more each week spent in range. Nevertheless, we also point out, of course, that the group (again, the group that has the most challenges of any age group managing diabetes) still experienced a fair amount of time above 250 mg/dl. This is  another reason for healthcare professionals and people with diabetes to think about the “whole person” when considering diabetes management, and another reason why we always recommend Adam Brown’s Bright Spots and Landmines for ways to improve diabetes management in terms of food, exercise, mindset, and sleep – it includes many strategies for people, especially teens and young adults, to use each day.

AID comparison

Image source: diaTribe

  • The biggest Time in Range improvement came overnight (between midnight to 6am). During this six-hour overnight period, AHCL users spent an average of 4.4 hours in range (74% TIR), compared to 4.2 hours (70% TIR) for 670G, and 3.5 hours (58% TIR) during baseline. While the overnight Time in Range difference between AHCL and 670G may not seem large, it added up to nearly a 22-hour difference over the three-month the AHCL period.
  • With daytime numbers, the average AHCL user spent 63 more hours (about 2.6 days) in range than the average 670G user in each three-month study period.

The graph below shows daytime and nighttime differences in time spent in range (70-180 mg/dl), and the data is included in a table at the end of this article. Better sleep the night before can also make diabetes management more effective during the day.

Comparison

Image source: diaTribe

  • Using MiniMed 670G drove an average A1C improvement from 7.9% to 7.6%, while AHCL use improved A1C from 7.9% to 7.4%.

Both systems showed extremely positive results and were found to be safe for use in young people with type 1 diabetes. The AID algorithms led to dramatic increases in Time in Range in a population that stands to benefit – over the course of a year, adolescents and young adults could spend more than ten additional days in range. The direct comparison between these two AID algorithms is highly informative – we hope to see similar trials in the future.

Comparison

Image source: diaTribe

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Survey Reveals the Heavy Burden of the Pandemic on People with Diabetes

The COVID-19 pandemic has now been ongoing for over a year, and even with the light finally visible at the end of the tunnel, it is undoubtable that it will have lasting effects, for years to come.

Late in 2020, we partnered with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to conduct a survey-based analysis to assess the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Americans living with diabetes.

Approximately 2,600 responses were collected from the Thrivable online patient panel. People from all 50 states shared their experiences during the pandemic, describing the impacts on access to healthcare, food, outlook on receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and more.

Key Findings: Reduced Health Care and Food Access

  • About 4 of 10 Americans with diabetes delayed seeking routine medical care, with more than 50% stating the fear of COVID-19 exposure was the primary reason.
  • About 1 in 5 Americans with diabetes have foregone or delayed getting an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
  • More than 1 in 4 stated their access to healthy food was reduced, with about 1 in 5 relying on food assistance programs.
  • Almost half who receive assistance report that the food they receive negatively affects their diabetes management.
  • About 1 in 5 people who receive nutritional assistance report not having enough food to eat.

Moreover, about 1 in 5 Americans with diabetes have reported having to choose between buying food vs. affording their diabetes supplies.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are widespread and span across multiple facets of people’s lives. For people with diabetes, many of whom are already struggling to afford their healthcare expenses, the financial effects of the pandemic may be particularly grim.

Perspectives on the COVID-19 Vaccine

When asked about their comfort level of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is made available to them, people with diabetes reported being more likely to want to receive it right away as compared to data collected from the general population.

Less than half as many people with diabetes stated that they would never want to get the vaccine as compared to data on the general population (10% vs. 21%, respectively).

It is perhaps not surprising that people with diabetes feel more strongly about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine than the general population. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that people with type 2 diabetes  “are at increased risk  of severe illness” from COVID-19, while people with type 1 diabetesmight be at an increased risk for severe illness.”

Other Insights: Barriers to Clinical Trials Participation

In addition to exploring the financial burden of the pandemic and assessing readiness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, we also gathered information regarding previous participation or willingness to participate in a clinical trial. As per the recent press release,

“People with diabetes have participated infrequently in clinical drug trials in the past (only 11% report having done so), but the majority – 60% – say they are likely or very likely to participate in such a study in the future. Yet nearly a quarter of those who responded to the survey said they didn’t know how to participate in a drug trial if they wanted to do so.”

Check out the full press release from the ADA as well as the more data below:

New Data Alert: COVID-19 Brings Crisis of Access for Millions Living with Diabetes

Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on People with Diabetes

Methodology and Panel Demographics

These figures are based on Thrivable’s survey of more than 2,500 people with diabetes nationally, between December 7th and December 14th, 2020

  • A multiple-choice survey was distributed online to people with diabetes (U.S. residents) who signed up for the Thrivable Insights panel.
  • Participants were not compensated for their responses.
  • Data was analyzed using Qualtrics and Excel.
  • Details on panel breakdown include:
    • N = 2,595
    • o 47% with type 1 diabetes, 53% type 2
    • o 69% female, 31% male
    • o All 50 U.S. states are represented

Source: diabetesdaily.com

The New Type 1 Diabetes Detection Program from JDRF

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Stacey Simms

Stacey: Tell me more about T1detect.

Frank: T1Detect is an education and awareness program about type 1 diabetes(T1D) and its risks, and a very important component of that is making the [autoantibodies] test available to people. Because right now, they’re not really available to people except in the context of research settings, or as people like you might know, in the context of an actual T1D diagnosis, when someone has super high blood sugar, they’re in the hospital. Then the doctors will do a confirmation test to see if it’s type 1, we want to make it available to people who don’t yet have symptoms. So hence, T1Detect.

You can go and find the test in a couple of different places. First and foremost is the JDRF website, we have access to information and the test kit button on our website through T1Detect. You click the button, it gives you some information about what it is to have T1D, what the risk factors are, what are autoantibodies.

You click the button you go to the Enable portal, fill in some information, we’re asking for your name, mailing address, things like that. We’re also asking for some demographic information, we want to learn who’s getting to the end, who’s at risk, and that’ll help us improve the program going forward. Then you come to a choice where you can pay for the test, the test is not terribly expensive, it’s $55. To run the test, plus or minus a couple of taxes, you also have the option if you cannot afford the test to have JDRF [help] pay for the test and you will pay for the bulk of the cost.

Right now, it’s not a feature to ask your insurance company to pay for this, but in the future, it will be. All that being done, the test will get sent to you, you’ll get a little box in the mail. It was pretty simple, I did it. You have a Lancet, you poke your finger. Then you fill in two out of four of these circles on a piece of cardboard, let that dry, and send it back. A couple of weeks later, the company will tell you, you have one, two, or three of the type 1 diabetes-specific autoantibodies.

Stacey: What are you testing for?

Frank: Let’s take a little step back to the biology of type 1 diabetes, the biology of autoimmune diseases. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, and one of the ways we can tell a person who has an autoimmune disease is we can look in their blood for signs and symptoms of that their immune system is doing something that it is not supposed to be doing. In type 1 diabetes, we look for something called autoantibodies.

Now autoantibodies are something that that’s sort of a general term to all different autoimmune diseases. People with multiple sclerosis have autoantibodies, people with lupus have autoantibodies. What we’re looking for in type 1 diabetes are autoantibodies that are specific to type 1 diabetes. What makes them specific to type 1 diabetes is they are specific to things that are in your pancreas. We actually are looking for three of the four primary autoantibodies that have been determined through many many years of research to be very good diagnostics for type 1 diabetes, they’re IAA [Anti-Insulin], IA2 and GAD65. Some people may remember those names from TrialNet or other organizations, but there are three of the four that help us diagnose to end and predict your risk…. Based on those three, if you have two or more of those, we know pretty well that your risk of developing insulin dependence is very, very high. In fact, if you have two or more of those in your blood, you already have type 1 diabetes… you may not be symptomatic, but you already have it.

Watch the full interview below:



Source: diabetesdaily.com

COVID-19 Vaccine: Experience and Thoughts from the Diabetes Community

We are almost one year into the COVID-19 pandemic and while it is still causing devastation, there is light at the end of the tunnel thanks to two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, now offering a vaccine.

It varies by state but healthcare workers and people over 75 years (over 65 in some states) are the first in line. After that, people with high-risk, pre-existing conditions will be next. See here to find out your exact eligibility per state.

Many people have mixed feelings about the vaccine. Some are certain they will get it, not only because they don’t believe the vaccine is at all harmful but because they want life to go back to normal as soon as possible, while also protecting their health. Others are reluctant, possibly questioning the novelty and quick turnaround of the vaccine and wondering if there may be unforeseen side effects.

We thought it would be nice to hear from people like ourselves, who also live with diabetes, and see how they feel about getting vaccinated. We also spoke to some people who have already received the vaccine and heard about their experiences with side effects.

We asked our own Diabetes Daily forum members and the diabetes online community and here is what they had to say:

My wife with type 2 diabetes also suffers from COPD, bronchitis, and asthma. Accordingly, she would have a problem surviving COVID, so we have both registered with the NJ Covid Registry and will take the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. ~ Don1942

As I see it, two of these vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) use a completely new and untested approach called mRNA. They were tested for only a short term on young, healthy adults. Animal, medium, and long-term testing were bypassed entirely. No testing on those with various health issues, and no testing for drug interactions. They only claim to reduce the number of symptoms. Zero claims are made about keeping you from getting or transmitting the virus. Last statement verified by Fauci saying anti-social distancing, lockdowns, and masking will still apply once you have had the vaccine. Then there are the 3+% of those who are vaccinated who suffer worse side effects than the symptoms the drug is supposed to reduce, keeping in mind that in the age groups tested only 1% would ever show any symptoms at all.

Finally the manufacturers take zero fiscal responsibility for bad outcomes. If they don’t believe their drugs are safe, why should I? ~ BobCan2

I have a nephew that has a doctorate in biochemistry (currently working on gene therapy). Said “I would take any of the vaccines in a second.” His wife also an MD has had the Moderna vaccine. I have a niece that is working on her doctorate in microbiology who has had the vaccine. So yes, I will take it. ~ 1986

I’m a no. Given my recent extended exposure, I’m not concerned. I’ll gladly wait for herd immunity. ~ HaoleBoy

I am a surgeon. I got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Just a sore arm. I have reviewed all of the science presented to the FDA and have no concerns. Glad to have access! ~ Dr. Carrie D.

So I voted yes… I’ve stated before that I used to be in the vaccine industry and I trust the science and the process. It’s not new technology being used. ~ Jughed

I’m getting the Moderna vaccine on Monday. I am a special education teacher in WI and we are the first group identified in the school district. Blessing! ~ Melissa R.

I think most people of my age remember friends getting polio, and I also remember giving my father chickenpox, which made him very, very ill; so having seen the miracles these vaccines did for quality of life, and preventing unnecessary deaths, I know I am very much pro-vaccination. My name will go down for a vaccine when it finally arrives here, hopefully, next month. I’m eligible for priority vaccination because of my age and a couple of chronic conditions.

I am 81 years old and a type 1 diabetic for 75 years. I am very high risk if I have the COVID virus. I am scheduled for the vaccine on Wed, Jan 21. My only hesitance is that the vaccine is being given in the gym complex at the local high school. I will probably encounter several individuals in the parking lot, while entering the building, inside the building, etc. In some states, people are receiving the vaccine without getting out of their cars. I wish it was done that way here where I live. ~ Richard `57

I am getting mine next weekend. I am 100% behind the science and haven’t given it a negative thought. Bring it on! ~ Susan K.

I’ll have it as soon as it’s offered. I am just recovering from COVID and it is awful. Sugars were terrible. I never want it again if I can help it. ~ Michelle R.

I will not be getting one. Mostly because I can’t help but think childhood vaccines play a major role in type 1 diabetes in the first place as vaccines are designed to trigger the immune system. ~ Fabian B.

I plan on getting the J&J one once it’s approved. I’m uncomfortable with the speed of the first two on the market, despite all I know everyone is saying. I feel better about the slow poke even if it’s irrational. ~ Caroline L.

Nope, nope and nope again. ~Kristin R.

I won’t be giving it to my son or myself. ~ Julie P.

I plan on getting one. In Nebraska, people living with diabetes are now eligible. ~ Wendy G.

My daughter is type 1 but it is not approved for children yet but she will not receive one and will remain not vaccinated as she always has been. ~ Stefanie R.

Here is what the people who have already received the vaccine had to say:

I had both doses. I’m 10 days out and still feel very run down. I was COVID-tested yesterday because it felt like a mild case but was negative. I received the vaccine 2 weeks ago and no side effects. Type 1 for 55 years. ~ Cindi H.

Tolerated both injections. Side effects were mild, with some deep muscle soreness, at least for me. I did note some insulin resistance post injections. ~ Chris A.

I got my first dose a couple of weeks ago and will get my next one in two weeks. I just had a sore arm and a little fatigued the next day. By the third day, I felt pretty normal. I didn’t notice any changes to my insulin sensitivity or blood sugar levels. ~ Karissa G.

I received both doses. My only issues were headache, fatigue, and chills.

COVID vaccine update #2: 24 hours later, I don’t feel horrible, but definitely off. Some body aches, headache and overall sluggishness. I went to bed at about 8:30 and “slept” till 10:30. (with my saul dog interruptions and the baby kicking my bladder, etc.)” ~ Nicole M.

I had mine because I work for the National Health Service and I had no side effects at all. ~ Kate B.

I was nauseous after my first dose for about 12 hours. I took a Zofran and was fine. ~ Jamie B.

I did have side effects (pain, mild fever) but I won’t hesitate to go for the second shot.

I have completed the series and just had a sore arm for a couple of days each time.

No side effects beyond a sore arm. I like the peace of mind and I did extensive research before getting it to fully understand what I was getting into. ~ Sarah R.

My 82-year old identical twin sisters each received the first dose. One got the Pfizer and the other the Moderna. No adverse reactions thus far. The one that got the Pfizer has allergies so was a bit concerned but had no reaction. ~ Auburn75

It should be mandatory that vaccines like this are taken. It’s not a conspiracy theory. There aren’t robots in the vaccine. This whole virus story isn’t a hoax, and this hasn’t been started because some people are simply trying to make some money. The sheer lunacy I’ve seen out there is beyond description. Some people think the world is flat. I’ve gotten both doses and have had zero side effects. ~ Sheralyn B.

I received my first vaccine on Jan 8 with minimal side effects being a sore arm and mild low blood sugars. On Jan 27 I received my second vaccine. Initially only had a sore arm and headache but after 36 hours, developed mild fever of 99.7, body aches, headache, continued low blood sugars, and a grape side swollen lymph node in my armpit, the arm I received my vaccine in. Fever and swollen lymph node improved with Tylenol and Ibuprofen! ~ Carlie W.

Will you be getting the vaccine once it is available to you? Have you had one or both doses and experienced side effects? Share and comment below!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

How Race and Ethnicity Affect Diabetes Prevalence, Management, and Complications

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Julia Kenney, Matthew Garza, and Eliza Skoler

Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian individuals, and people of all non-white racial and ethnic groups are more likely to have diabetes and diabetes-related health complications than their white peers. Here’s how social determinants of health lead to differences in diabetes care and outcomes, creating racial, ethnic, and economic health disparities in the United States.

According to the 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), diabetes affects over 34 million people in the United States – that’s more than one in ten people. However, diabetes does not affect all communities equally. As with many conditions – such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, and chronic kidney disease – a person’s race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status influences both their risk for developing diabetes and their access to diabetes management resources. The health disparities that exist among the many races in the US are not attributable to genetics or biology alone, but also to socioeconomic factors and social determinants of health that disadvantage people of color.

Though genetics and biology do play important roles in diabetes prevalence and complication rates, this article will focus on the societal factors that affect the lives of people living with diabetes – such as access to healthy food, healthcare, employment, and other socioeconomic factors. We aim to specifically explore the racial health disparities that disadvantage communities of color. We will also highlight some of the factors underlying the concerning patterns in diabetes prevalence, management, and complications, and share ways to promote health and access to care for people with diabetes, regardless of race and ethnicity.

Defining Key Terms

  • Race & Ethnicity – Race is a socially constructed way to group individuals based on skin color and physical features. There is no specific set of genes that defines a race. Ethnicity is also socially constructed, and it categorizes people based on a shared sense of group membership (like language, culture, history, or geography).
  • Socioeconomic status – Socioeconomic status is a measure of a person’s economic and social standing. This term is often used interchangeably with social or economic class.
  • Health disparities – Health disparities are differences in health outcomes among various populations or communities. They are closely linked to social, economic, and environmental disadvantages that affect groups that have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health (due to factors including race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and economic status.)
  • Health equity – Health equity is the goal that every person, regardless of their background or circumstance, is able to live a healthy life with full access to quality healthcare and other health resources. Achievement of health equity requires valuing every person equally and addressing avoidable inequalities with focused, societal efforts to eliminate injustices and health disparities.
  • Social determinants of health – These are factors that influence a person’s health but fall outside the scope of a healthcare professional’s influence. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. For example, social determinants of health can include a person’s race, gender, socioeconomic status, education, and where they live and work; these factors are often longstanding and have multi-generational effects. Social determinants of health are one of the major causes of health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status.
  • Systemic racism – Also called institutional or structural racism, it is defined by systems and structures (such as medicine or the healthcare system) that have procedures or processes that disadvantage people of color.

Systemic racism lies at the center of this article. As we discuss racial health disparities and their underlying causes, keep in mind that these factors are a result of the long-standing structures that affect the lived experiences of people of color – they are not attributed to the personal decisions of individuals.

A Look at Racial Health Disparities in Diabetes

What do health disparities actually look like in the US? The data show concerning patterns: Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian populations are more heavily affected by diabetes than their non-Hispanic, white counterparts, in diagnoses, management challenges, and diabetes-related complications.

The CDC’s diabetes statistics report showed alarming differences among races in the estimated percentage of adults with diabetes (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) in the US from 2013 to 2016:

  • Black, non-Hispanic: 16.4%
  • Asian, non-Hispanic: 14.9%
  • Hispanic: 14.7%
  • White, non-Hispanic: 11.9%

While these differences in rates are stark, the evidence shows that diabetes prevalence is not dependent on race from a genetic or physiological standpoint alone. For example, in this study from 2007, when researchers accounted for socioeconomic factors, the differences in rates of type 2 diabetes between racial groups were reduced. This supports the idea that socioeconomic factors that disadvantage people of color are a significant cause for these health disparities.

In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, a team of researchers from Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University found that there were differences in the quality of diabetes care between racial and ethnic groups. Using the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data, they looked at adherence to five ADA-recommended services over one year that indicate quality of diabetes care. Compared to white individuals, Hispanic, Black, and Asian individuals received fewer diabetes management checks, including A1C tests, eye exams, foot exams, blood cholesterol tests, and flu vaccines. Even in adjusted models which controlled for factors like insurance coverage, poverty, and education, some of the disparities remained. Most notably, Hispanic, Black, and Asian individuals were still less likely to receive the two recommended annual A1C checks. The researchers showed that this difference in quality of care occurred partly because populations of color had less access to health insurance and diabetes management education, compared to white populations.

Trends in care translate to trends in diabetes outcomes – including complications and death rates. A study from 2014 looked into racial and ethnic differences in diabetes complications and mortality. Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic individuals had higher rates of retinopathyend-stage kidney disease, and amputations than non-Hispanic white individuals. Furthermore, these groups were more likely to die from diabetes than non-Hispanic white Americans:

  • Indigenous populations were 3 times more likely to die from diabetes
  • Non-Hispanic Black Americans were 2.3 times more likely to die from diabetes
  • Hispanic Americans were 1.5 times more likely to die from diabetes

Just as with the risk of diabetes, people of color are not genetically predisposed to diabetes-related complications due to race alone. A combination of social and environmental factors plays into a person’s ability to successfully manage their diabetes.

How Genetics and Biology Are Involved

Racial and ethnic categories are not as closely associated with genetics and biology as some people think. In fact, categories such as white, Black, Asian, and Hispanic are defined more by society than by any set of specific genes. However, to fully address the factors that affect diabetes prevalence and outcomes, we must understand the role of genetics and biology. Studies have shown that there are biological differences among races that correspond to how a person metabolizes (or utilizes) glucose, their insulin sensitivity, and how fat is distributed in the body – however, a person’s family history of diabetes is more telling of their genetic risk for that condition than the color of their skin. The research on how genetics, biology, and race all intersect and interact to influence diabetes is complex; there is still much to determine.

As discussed, genetics alone do not explain diabetes-related health disparities among the races. Furthermore, we cannot reduce the large health disparities by focusing solely on biological factors, which are largely predetermined; we must instead focus on the socioeconomic factors and social determinants of health that exacerbate racial disparities, which are in large part founded in longstanding systemic racism. Below we describe some of the many elements of systemic racism that affect a person’s ability to manage their diabetes and receive quality diabetes healthcare.

Main Causes of Racial Health Disparities in Diabetes Prevalence

The factors we discuss here are influenced by systemic racism that is built into the social, economic, and political fabric of the United States. The systemic racism that people of color experience results in things like lower wages, fewer academic and professional opportunities, and reduced community resources. With this in mind, factors like income, unemployment, health insurance, and food and exercise environments are not entirely personal choices, but can be explained by a number of external causes.

Income 

In the US, there are major racial differences in wealth. A 2018 Kaiser study offered this breakdown of people living below the federal poverty level:

  • 1 in 4 Indigenous people
  • 1 in 5 Black people
  • 1 in 5 Hispanic people
  • 1 in 10 white people

Further statistics on income and poverty levels can be found in the US Census Bureau’s 2019 report, which confirms the racial disparities in poverty rates. People living with incomes below the federal poverty level in 2018 were earning only $12,000 a year (or $25,000 for a family of four). These families – and many above the federal poverty level – often can’t afford the nutritious food, safe exercise opportunities, and healthcare needed to prevent and manage diabetes.

Unemployment and Health Insurance

People of color in America are also more likely to be unemployed. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rates of unemployment in 2019, broken down by race, were:

  • 6.6% of Indigenous people
  • 6.1% of Black people
  • 3.9% of Latino and/or Hispanic people
  • 3.1% of white people

These unemployment rates and racial disparities have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which dramatically increased unemployment rates in the US. Though unemployment is closely tied to income, it can also influence a person’s access to health insurance, since many people receive health insurance from an employer.

Stat

Image source: diaTribe

The high cost of healthcare means those who are uninsured or underinsured often do not get the care they need, including preventive healthcare (such as annual check-ups and prediabetes screenings) and instead must rely on inconsistent care. Unfortunately, Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic people are less likely to be insured in America. According to a Kaiser study of non-elderly individuals in the US, these were the rates of uninsured people in 2018:

  • 21.8% of Indigenous people (identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native
  • 19% of Hispanic people
  • 11.5% of Black people
  • 7.5% of white people

Food and Exercise

A healthy diet and regular exercise are known to reduce the risk and improve the outcomes of type 2 diabetes. However, Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities in the US have less access to healthy foods and experience higher rates of food insecurity than white communities. According to the USDA, more than 35 million people lived in food insecure households in the US in 2019, including:

  • 25% of Indigenous people
  • 19.1% of non-Hispanic, Black households
  • 15.6% of Hispanic households
  • 7.9% of non-Hispanic, white households

Food insecurity is most common among low-income communities, which are disproportionately occupied by people of color. Moreover, food deserts (where there is little to no access to healthy foods) and food swamps (full of unhealthy fast-food options) are located primarily in minority neighborhoods. These communities are often faced with local food options that put them at an increased risk for diabetes: more small grocery stores with limited choices, fast food restaurants, and liquor stores, and fewer supermarkets with fresh fruit and vegetable options, bakeries, and natural and whole foods.

In addition to less access to healthy and affordable food, people of color often also have less time, money, and overall access to venues for exercise. This article from the New York Times about the racially exclusive culture around jogging is an eye-opening example of the barriers to exercise that many Black people face. Even at a time when some of the world’s most elite runners are African or Black, Black runners and joggers (in America, especially) often engage in protective measures such as running only during the daytime, steering clear of certain neighborhoods, or wearing Ivy League sweatshirts to deflect any suspicions that could lead to racist attacks.

Main Causes of Racial Health Disparities in Diabetes-Related Health Complications

Barriers to healthcare (such as a lack of health insurance or insufficient income) continue after a person is diagnosed with diabetes. Without ongoing, regular diabetes care, people face higher rates of health complications. Here are some of the barriers:

  • The high cost of insulin has made the life-saving drug inaccessible to many people, including people of color who have higher rates of unemployment and little or no health insurance. An American Action Forum report showed that insulin costs a person an average of $6,000 per year and found that one in four people with diabetes report rationing their insulin because they cannot afford the cost of their full prescribed dose.
  • Despite major advances in diabetes technology that make diabetes management easier, including wider use of CGM and insulin pumps, disparities exist in who has access to these tools. Black individuals are less likely to use an insulin pump or CGM than their white counterparts – which may be due to failure of the healthcare professional to write a prescription for technology, insufficient information about diabetes technology, an inability to afford these devices, or subtle racism on the part of the established medical system.
  • Even for people who have insurance, the costs of diabetes care and a diabetes-friendly nutrition plan can be challenging for people with low incomes.

Social and racial barriers widen diabetes health disparities. There is a history of prejudice against people of color in our healthcare system: Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic individuals can have the same income, insurance, and medical condition as white people yet still receive lower quality care due to systemic racism. In 2018, fewer than 12% of practicing physicians in the United States were Black, Hispanic, or Indigenous individuals. This means that there are fewer healthcare professionals who can earn trust and identify with communities of color. For more information on racism in healthcare, check out Unequal Treatment.

The Importance of Addressing Health Inequity in Communities of Color

It is clear that the disparities in diabetes prevalence, care, and management can be explained in part by of a number of social determinants of health, many of which are influenced by systemic racism. Every person with diabetes faces health barriers. But for many, the color of their skin can make successful diabetes management even more difficult and sometimes impossible. Every person with diabetes should have access to diabetes care, medication, and technology, and to living a healthy life with diabetes.

What Can We, as a Society, Do to Reduce These Disparities?

It will take extensive, collaborative, and creative work to address these disparities. We can begin by educating ourselves and others. Some good first steps include learning about the challenges faced by people of color with diabetes, about the people working to address these issues already, and about the ways to get involved. Check out some of our other articles on these subjects:

At diaTribe, we want to acknowledge the people and the organizations at the local, state, and national levels who are already doing the work needed to effectively tackle the health inequalities that lead to higher rates of diabetes and less favorable outcomes among people of color. In addition to those whose jobs focus on addressing health disparities, there are other ways for people to be involved in promoting health equity. Here are some ideas to consider:

No matter what skills or resources you may have, determine how your expertise might be of benefit – particularly if you are in the health field where you can address systemic racism and health disparities. The more we learn about how the social determinants of health and racism in healthcare contribute to a person’s risk for diabetes and influence their diabetes management, the better prepared we’ll be to knock down barriers to quality care.

We acknowledge that every person should have the resources to manage their diabetes and, in the case of type 2 diabetes, to prevent it. All people, and especially people in positions of privilege, have a responsibility to help break down barriers to equal care for underserved communities. As people with diabetes and their allies, we have to do the work – and build upon the work already being done – to address racial health disparities and create more equitable and inclusive healthcare for people of color – in fact, for all of us.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

CGMs to “Hack” Your Blood Sugar? People with Diabetes Speak Up

It’s becoming more and more common: whether in a coffee shop in Silicon Valley or in a weightlifting gym in Boulder, Colorado, people without diabetes are using continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) to “hack” their blood sugars, lose weight, and hone their diets accordingly. This article will explore the use of CGMs in the non-diabetic population, what the backlash from the diabetes community has been, and what the call to action should be.

CGMs for More Than Just Diabetes Management?

According to one website that promotes the use of CGMs in a non-diabetic population,

“ Wearing a CGM can facilitate the effort for someone who wants to hack their diet, blood sugar control, and overall health. This technology can go beyond a single blood sugar reading that a blood glucose meter provides. A CGM can provide real-time insight on whether blood sugar is trending up or down.”

What may seem like an innocuous accessory for the upper-class elite has many people with diabetes enraged. CGMs are crucial in providing regular, near-constant blood glucose readings to track time spent in range (TIR), identifying patterns in blood sugars, and anticipating both low and high levels.

The Original Purpose of a Continuous Glucose Monitor

For people with diabetes, they are life-saving, and more and more often are being coupled with insulin pumps that will then increase or suspend insulin according to the blood sugar that a CGM reads. It almost entirely eliminates the need for manual finger testing and has proven to help lower HbA1c levels, reduce dangerous low blood sugars, increase time in range, prevent unnecessary emergency room (ER) visits, and save the health care system money and save many lives. It has quickly become a necessity for tight diabetes management in recent years for many people.

For something so seemingly necessary for most people with diabetes, it clearly isn’t seen that way by industry: 16 states, including California (the most populous), do not have Medicaid coverage for continuous glucose monitors at all. And while most private health insurance plans (and even Medicare) now cover CGMs, affording one without health insurance is nearly impossible: the most popular CGM and the one that most commonly connects with insulin pumps, the Dexcom CGM, costs thousands of dollars out of pocket per month without insurance.

So when someone with diabetes, who is already struggling to afford their insulin, goes to the local coffee shop and overhears two dudes from Crossfit comparing their (perfect) blood sugar readings on their respective CGMs over their non-fat decaf lattes, the inequity of the situation can be enough to make your skin crawl.

Clair from Illinois says,

“The general population using CGM devices trivializes them.”

Cate from Nebraska adds,

“It absolutely incenses me [when non-diabetics use CGMs]. There’s a local doctor in my area who treats patients for weight loss and gives everyone a free CGM; meanwhile, it’s an arm and a leg to refill my own.”

Bonnie from Minneapolis says,

“It drives me absolutely bananas.”

We Are All Just Products of the System

Managing diabetes with a continuous glucose monitor is life-changing, but it is expensive, and living with diabetes in America is anything but easy. We have the most expensive insulin prices in the world, health insurance isn’t compulsory or cheap, and even when you do have a job that has health insurance, necessary diabetes technology is sometimes not even covered or affordable under your plan.

Seeing people use technology that we need can be seen as a slap in the face, but we’re directing our anger at the wrong place. The problem with accessibility in the United States is not a supply issue. The problem with accessibility in the United States is that we use health care as a commodity when it is not. We put health care into a capitalist box when it’s something that should be treated as the human right it is. We’ve priced people out of their lives. We treat things like insulin and insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors as if they’re elastic goods when they’re 100% inelastic. We cannot negotiate our own pricing for insulin. We can’t haggle down the price or walk away. We need the drug or we die.

People without diabetes see products like continuous glucose monitors as the valuable goods they are and are willing to pay for them. No person who uses a CGM recreationally has it covered by their insurance, and it’s important to remember that.

It’s not a zero-sum game where someone’s CGM that’s paid for out of pocket in San Francisco precludes another person on Maine’s Medicaid program from accessing one of their own, but it feels like it does. Instead of taking our anger out on the gym-rat in Colorado who’s paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for their Dexcom each month (which is stupid, but why question their motives?), we should be angry at the government and systems that created this situation to begin with.

If the United States had a single-payer health care system where everyone who lives here had health coverage, we wouldn’t care what people buy on the free market. If all plans (including Medicaid!) covered CGM use for people with diabetes at 100% of the cost, it wouldn’t bother us what anyone else was doing with their blood sugar levels (diabetic or not). It’s a symptom of a system that denies people with diabetes the proper care and regular, reliable access to proper durable medical equipment that makes them covet these devices as much as we do. There’s nothing inherently wrong with people without diabetes using CGMs, but it does sure feel like there should be. 

CGM for non-diabetic population

Photo credit: iStock

Some People Support Wider Use of CGMs

In speaking with others for this story, I found several people who encourage non-diabetics to use CGMs, like Mindy, a registered dietician from Colorado,

“I am pleased that there is adequate supply for people without diabetes who can view the real-time movements and fluctuations of blood glucose. The more understanding there is in groups of non-DMs, maybe we can finally change the direction of people diagnosed with (type 2) in the future.”

Christie, from California, added,

“being mad about someone having a CGM that they bought on the free-market is similar to someone with hypertension being angry over another person having an at-home blood pressure monitor. It just doesn’t compute.”

In a country with nearly 100 million people living with prediabetes, learning to respond to blood sugar trends and figuring out which foods work best for your body can only be a good thing. And although it hasn’t happened yet, the more “mainstream” these devices become, the more affordable they’re bound to become, which would be great for everyone. Additionally, for shy diabetics, CGMs becoming more mainstream can also take away the stigma of having a visible device on your body 24/7. It’s suddenly “cool”.

Benefits for Everyone

Whether or not you have diabetes, a continuous glucose monitor can help with several things:

  • Learning how your body responds to certain foods (grapes versus crackers, for instance)
  • Identifying blood sugar patterns around mealtime and exercise
  • Diagnosing diabetes before the onset of ketoacidosis (DKA) in people at high risk (people who are overweight, obese, live with prediabetes, or who have the antibodies for type 1 diabetes)
  • Improving blood sugar to help maximize energy for a workouts
  • Helping people lose weight by managing their hunger (which is the result of fewer blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day)

In a country where over 70 million adults are obese and another 99 million are overweight, having more data regarding how our bodies respond to the foods we eat is vital. We have a type 2 diabetes epidemic on our hands that is only getting worse, and wider CGM usage may help curb that, but people need to be careful.

Using them as “wellness gimmicks” may bombard those who truly do not understand the relationship between glucose and blood sugars, leaving users overwhelmed with data and confused, while not making any dietary changes at all. In a true market economy, the greater the demand, the more competition will spring up, the more prices will fall (for both people with and without diabetes).

The real issue that people need to focus on is making sure that everyone with diabetes who wants a CGM can get one, but people without diabetes accessing CGMs on the open market will not prevent that from happening. We need to push for greater coverage for CGMs on the private and public health insurance market with our elected officials and make sure that we inch ever closer to the illustrious universal health care system that other industrialized countries enjoy. We need to make sure that everyone with diabetes has access to affordable insulin, pumps, and supplies (including CGMs), with strong grassroots advocacy to equip people with all the tools they need to thrive. If we achieve universal health care maybe someday everyone who truly needs a CGM can get one, but until then, let the Crossfit bro with his Dexcom sensor alone. Although you can let him know that the caffeine in his latte will raise his blood sugar a few points in the meantime.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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