On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Diabetes in Oklahoma

Diabetes remains a growing health concern nationwide, but Oklahoma particularly struggles with the disease. In fact, Oklahoma has the seventh-highest rate of type 2 diabetes in the country.

The rates of diabetes in Oklahoma rose by a staggering 226 percent between the years of 1995 and 2010, and unfortunately, the news doesn’t get better.

Oklahoma has the fourth-highest death rate from diabetes in the U.S. and more than $185 million is spent annually across the state to combat the disease. This high rate is mainly due to poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle leading to obesity (80 percent of type 2 diabetics in Oklahoma are obese).

But with lifestyle changes, type 2 diabetes can be controlled and even reversed. Brent Wilson, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at INTEGRIS, says diabetes education programs at INTEGRIS are effective in reversing the dangerous illness.

"In America, 30 million people have type 2 diabetes," Wilson says. "In addition, 84 million are what we call ‘prediabetic,’ which translates to 1 in 3 people. But diabetes doesn’t have to happen if we can catch people who are prediabetic."

Why not evaluate your risk for diabetes so you can take steps to change some bad habits? Simply visit the INTEGRIS website to take the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Risk Assessment test.

Diabetes programs at INTEGRIS

The free Lifestyle is Medicine program is offered through the INTEGRIS Diabetes Education Center. The program identifies people who are at risk for diabetes or who are prediabetic to help them change their lifestyle habits through proper nutrition, glucose management, exercise and stress management.

"We ask people to visit the website to take the quick test. If they score in a range that suggests they are at risk for diabetes, we have information on classes nearby that can help them," Wilson says.

In addition, INTEGRIS has a Diabetes Education Program recognized by the ADA. Participants are usually referred by their physician to receive complete diabetes education, including how to choose nutritious foods, how to incorporate exercise and how to set blood glucose goals.

"My goal as an educator is to let those who are newly diagnosed with diabetes know that with lifestyle changes, they do not have to be dependent on medications for the rest of their lives," Wilson says. "If you get active, eat the right foods, reduce highly processed foods and control your glucose, type 2 diabetes is reversible."

Why does Oklahoma have so many diabetics?

Oklahoma is ranked as one of the unhealthiest states in the nation. Most diabetics have type 2 diabetes, otherwise known as insulin-resistant diabetes. Here, the pancreas makes insulin to convert food into energy, but the body’s cells are unable to use it and the glucose from food builds up in the bloodstream rather than reaching cells as needed.

Type 2 diabetes is frequently due to external factors such as obesity, poor diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. "Unfortunately, the lifestyles we live and the nutrition choices we make are the reasons Oklahomans have such high rates of diabetes," says Wilson.

"In Oklahoma, highly processed foods and refined carbs are affordable and easily accessible. Also, we are a sedentary state with many people working desk jobs. We don’t have the options for easy exercise that many other major cities have. We rely on our cars so much here."

"Food Deserts" throughout Oklahoma’s rural areas also contribute to the obesity problem in Oklahoma. Food deserts are parts of the state that lack accessibility to fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods. Commonly, this is due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets and other healthy food providers.

Recently, WalletHub released its report on 2019's Fattest Cities in America, comparing 100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas on key health metrics. The data reports on everything from share of obese adults and share of overweight children to projected obesity rates by 2030. Oklahoma City had the following rankings in the report.

  • 13th for percent of adults with diabetes
  • 18th for percent of obese adults
  • 18th for percent of adults with high blood pressure
  • 24th for percent of adults with high cholesterol
  • 27th for percent of physically inactive adults
  • 35th for percent for adults with low fruit/vegetable consumption

Reversing the trend

The INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center Diabetes Education team can help make sense of your health and diabetes with classes and personal consultations. Classes are led by certified diabetes educators like Wilson who will teach you how to manage the disease. Individualized education is offered for all aspects of diabetes self-care. Topics include:

  • Diabetes disease process
  • Diabetes and pregnancy
  • Insulin pump therapy
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medications (pills and insulin)
  • Monitoring
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Preventing complications

To get started:

  1. Talk to your doctor about which program is right for you. He or she can then refer you to the Diabetes Center for education based on your specific needs.
  2. Check with your insurance provider about your diabetes education benefits. Most insurance plans cover all or part of these programs.
  3. Call the Diabetes Center at (405) 949-6000 for class times and information, or to schedule an appointment for a class or individual consultation.