It has been a few days since World Diabetes Day, which brings me to writing about this acute disease we call diabetes. So, diabetes is one big health challenge facing the world in recent times. You will find every household having a member or two struggling with diabetes. Diabetic people can go through tough times, especially at work, so managing diabetes in the workplace becomes a necessary factor.
What is Diabetes?
According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020, 34.2 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, while 88 million American adults have prediabetes.
The term diabetes itself makes our head spin, let alone having it. Yes, it is severe and worth panicking over, but you should not, as there is no point.
Also, it’s controllable.
Now, Diabetes is nothing but an increase in blood sugar levels in the body. Glucose- a sugar- the essential substance derived from food is the energy source for the cells, which builds muscle and tissues. And, diabetes keeps glucose from entering your cells.
A vehicle without gas is what it represents- how does a machine suppose to work without gas?
Insulin is that metaphorical car that drives your energy home- it is the hormone that makes glucose enter your cells, and diabetes can rise because of the lack of production of this hormone inside the body.
There are quite some types of diabetes, and all the types point to one fact- an excess of sugar in the blood which leads to serious health problems.
Studies have shown that eating too much protein, especially animal protein, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes. A healthy diet includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Our bodies need all three to function properly. The key is a balanced diet.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes has a pretty broad spectrum of its own. The leading cause and the severity of this disease varies with type.
As discussed, insulin- the hormone released from the pancreas- lets glucose enter cells, and in its absence, sugar accumulates in the bloodstream. In Type 1 diabetes, the production of insulin stops or reduces.
Also known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells mistakenly while fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.
Apart from this, Type 1 diabetes can come with genes and environmental factors. It is not that common, and only 5-10 % of people might be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and it is mostly found in children, teens, and young adults.
Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes; however, children are also diagnosed with this type, due to childhood obesity in the current world. This type of diabetes messes up with the entire body metabolization of sugar.
Here, the body becomes insulin-resistant and does not use it properly. As a result, glucose cannot enter the cells, and sugar builds up in the bloodstream. As your body realizes excess sugar in the blood, the pancreas starts releasing more and more insulin for the cells to respond but not enough insulin is produced to maintain normal glucose levels.
So, all in vain. The pancreas cannot keep up with this change and falls short in meeting body demands, which fails to prevent sugar levels from rising. Being overweight and staying active is one of the contributing factors to Type 2 diabetes.
This type of diabetes can be brought to control whatsoever through active lifestyle- proper exercise and diet, medication, or insulin therapy where you might need to administer insulin through a syringe or implanted insulin pump.
Brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week can help control blood sugar levels in case of Type 2 diabetes
Gestational diabetes occurs during the pregnancy period. Like the other two types, it also has to do everything with how your cells use glucose.
High blood sugar level has high chances of affecting pregnancy and child’s health.
The bright side is that gestational diabetes disappears after delivery, and not-so-bright is the fact that once you have had this type of diabetes, the probability of getting Type 2 increases, which is why expectant mothers need to go on frequent blood checkups.
Again, exercise and healthy food become the savior of such kind of diabetes.
The healthiest fats are unsaturated fats, which come from fish and plant sources such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and support brain and heart health. Good sources include salmon, tuna, and flaxseeds.
Millions of adults in the US have prediabetes, and there is nothing to worry for this can be reversed.
Prediabetes is not a type of disease but it simply appears when you have higher than normal blood sugar levels but not enough to be treated as Type 2 diabetes. But if prediabetes remains unattended, it is more than likely to transform into type 2 diabetes within the next ten years.
The causes behind prediabetes are mostly genetic and lack of physical activities. When you have a sedentary lifestyle with no exercise or a healthy routine, excess fat might accumulate around your abdomen, making it one of the common causes of prediabetes.
Causes of Diabetes
There are a lot of causes; while some are unknown, others are pretty standard. I have listed the reasons for the two most common types of diabetes.
- The beta cells in the pancreas known to produce insulin get mistakenly attacked and destroyed through an autoimmune reaction by the body.
- Specific genes passed on by family
- Exposure to some virus-filled environment
- Inactive lifestyle
The type of carbohydrates you eat as well as serving size is key. Focus on whole grain carbs instead of starchy carbs since they’re high in fiber and digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more even.
Effects of Diabetes at Work
Several complications may occur for both employees and employers when the former is diabetes positive. As the US sees a rise in its diabetic population each day, it is just a matter of time before the whole working generation would be down with diabetes. Managing work and health turns into a challenge for diabetic employees.
- A diabetic employee's productivity would be different from a non-diabetic one, for the former will be fatigued most of the time due to the disease.
- Rise in absenteeism for there might be days when the diabetic employee would not feel well enough to come to the office, leading to increased sick leaves.
- Diabetic individuals might have to go through workplace discrimination, and the rest of the staff might not consider them reliable enough for work assistance.
- Companies may also restrict access to diabetic people for specific designated jobs.
- Economic productivity will also take a hit for a high chance of diabetic employees going for early retirement and a higher medical cost to be covered by the employer.
- Employees with diabetes need to follow a diet schedule because they have to take medication and test blood sugar levels, at times, too, which may hinder their work schedule.
- A diabetic employee is at risk of getting injured sooner than the other employees.
Why should employers care about Diabetes?
With the sedentary lifestyle in trend today, it is more than evident that diabetes is knocking at every door. People are getting obese or overweight and are high on junk food and low on physical activity.
Research says that a diabetic employee loses an additional 5.5 workdays a year, and to an employer, it is worth billions. Productivity declines while the medical cost skyrockets.
If the companies give serious attention to their diabetic workforce and take some measures to manage their condition at work, it might prove beneficial for both the employees and employers.
More than half the population is pre-diabetic, while the other half is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. So, it is highly likely for these people to end up at your workplace.
You would not want your employees to have a difficult time in your organization, which is why you have to help with the entire diabetes management at work to keep productivity and health intact.
How can you Manage Diabetes in the Workplace?
As an employer, you ought to be the first one to be concerned about your employees' health for the entire team to work efficiently . Accordingly, you and your employees should work together to address the challenges around diabetes.
The companies must make it easier for the staff- be it carrying out blood sugar tests, providing breaks for the employees to take medication or food as prescribed. Also, allowing them to take some time off to attend medical appointments is a really nice gesture.
However, managing diabetes in the workplace is not as simple as it sounds. As a result, we are here to make it a little less difficult for you than it is.
1. Spread Awareness
Before starting with the entire prevention and management process, the whole workforce needs to know about all the aspects of diabetes- the types, causes, risk factors, and prevention factors. Without actual knowledge, the workplace would be challenging to survive for a diabetic individual.
So, hold workshops and sessions where a health care professional would share all his insights on this disease. This way, employees with this condition would not feel secluded as the whole staff will be well-equipped with diabetic information.
Also, to lure all the employees into attending these programs, you can give them incentives.
2. Educate Managers
Hiring diabetes educators to educate the entire staff about diabetes is crucial, especially the managers, for they are responsible for holding the team together. As we know, managers are super busy with their day to day activities.
In such a situation, employers ought to educate the managers about a diabetic employee's various needs. Awareness has to be there because only then can the disease's intensity be understood, and accommodation can be arranged accordingly.
The best would be to offer a less strict work routine for employees with diabetic conditions. Maybe you can hold quick quiz sessions with the employees to test their knowledge on diabetes to make the programs more appealing and less tedious.
3. Provide Space
When one becomes diabetic, he would have an additional health routine where there has to be constant monitoring over what one eats, blood sugar levels, and whatnot. Even taking shots of insulin might be needed. But, at the office, doing all these gets a lot tougher than at home.
As an employer, you must make your employees feel good and not stress about anything. Diabetic employees are prone to take breaks quite often; their food timings might not match with the rest. Also, testing blood sugar levels is vital.
So, to make work life easier for them, provide them with an area where they can rest, test sugar levels, and even administer insulin if necessary. Allow them to take breaks, eat, or drink as they may, take medication, and offer them some needle disposal and storage units to keep their insulin in, as required.
4. Offer Support
Ask the employees with diabetes about what specific assistance they desire from you. Because every person might need something different- not all diabetic employees will have the same criteria.
Also, tell the other non-diabetic employees to lend them support whenever and wherever.
5. Encourage Healthy Lifestyle
Type 2 diabetes is on a spree in the US- but the plus point is it is preventable if one is smart and adopts a healthy lifestyle.
And as an employer, all you have to do is encourage healthy habits at work. Motivate your employees to be health-conscious.
Doing this will make both diabetic and non-diabetic employees work on their health, which in turn will take care of diabetes.
We at Vantage Fit follow this regularly to keep the workforce active.
I am sure this was helpful. Whether you have diabetes or your employee, it does not matter if you know what to do about it.
Diabetes is a severe disease, but it’s controllable and preventable. Just one needs to be loyal to his health.