The CDC states that approximately one in four Americans are living with a disability. This broad number encompasses various conditions that affect physical mobility, cognitive function, sight, vision, and the ability to live and care for themselves independently. Unfortunately, disabled populations have a markedly higher rate of diabetes than those without disabilities.
In the US in 2018, approximately 17 percent of individuals with disabilities were diagnosed with diabetes. In contrast, only seven percent of non-disabled individuals received the same diagnosis.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
Diabetes can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or even overall level of health. However, some factors put certain populations at higher risk. These include:
- Being overweight
- Engaging in physical activity less than three times a week
- Being an adult over 45
- Gestational diabetes, or giving birth to a baby exceeding nine pounds
- Certain ethnicities, such as African American, Hispanic, Indigenous peoples, and even Asians and Pacific Islanders
And now, evidence shows that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are also at higher risk for diabetes than their non-disabled peers.
IDD Individuals At Higher Risk
At a biological level, intellectual and developmental disabilities make individuals more vulnerable to type one diabetes. Chromosomal syndromes like Down syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome make it easy to gain large amounts of weight. This weight gain, especially in the stomach area, contributes to insulin resistance and the development of diabetes.
But while some data indicates a biological propensity towards diabetes in folks with certain disabilities, this is not always the case. It’s more likely that the numbers showcase the vast disparity in the health care available to those with disabilities compared to those without.
Folks with disabilities, in general, lead a more sedentary lifestyle, which means they are simply getting less exercise and daily physical activity. Whether through neglect or necessity, IDD folks may also consume high-fat diets, which contributes to obesity. Furthermore, certain prescription medications, including antipsychotics, have a hand in weight gain. Infrequent health checks and doctor visits only exacerbate the issue.
Education Is The Key To Prevention
Although it is well-documented that IDD individuals are particularly vulnerable to diabetes, remarkably little effort has been put into better health initiatives. Seminars on diabetes prevention and educational tools to promote healthier living for both IDD individuals and their support system are crucial to success.
Diabetes screenings and structured education targeting vulnerable populations could make all the difference. Moreover, IDD individuals require consistent, comprehensive care from their support systems to ward off diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Assigning specific responsibilities to carers might make it less likely that physical health needs, such as regular exercise and stimulating activity, slip through the cracks. Medical professionals should also be consulted to help design appropriate diet and exercise regimens, along with regular medication reassessments and periodic health checkups.
Susceptibility to diabetes marks just another area in which IDD individuals do not get the care they need to live long, healthy, and happy lives. But better care is possible; it’s just a matter of making it a priority.At ILA, the daily health and safety of our Individuals are always of utmost importance. To learn more about ILA or to find out how you can get involved, reach out today.