The diabetes epidemic in the Central Valley

Amanda Aguilar Image
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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The Central Valley is dealing with a diabetes epidemic, specifically Fresno and Merced counties.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Central Valley is dealing with a diabetes epidemic, specifically Fresno and Merced counties.

"Forty-three to 50% of the adults have either prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes," explained Dr. Chhaya Makhija, an endocrinologist at Unified Endocrine & Diabetes Care in Fresno.

Getting diagnosed with either types of diabetes means your body can't regulate blood sugar.

Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans are more likely to develop diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is often hereditary, whereas Type 2 is largely caused by lifestyle factors.

Dr. Chhaya Makhija said diabetes is no longer impacting older adults.

"Now I see teenagers, 20-year-olds, who are supposed to focus on their career, their professional lives and be independent and venture out, but they're dealing with the burden of this disease and that's specifically Type 2 diabetes," she said.

Ironically, the Central Valley is an agriculture hub, but Dr. Makhija believes very few are taking advantage of the available fruits and vegetables. She is also seeing patients who aren't getting enough physical activity.

These lifestyle changes can prevent Type 2 diabetes, or even help someone reverse prediabetes. Otherwise, this disease can lead to more complications.

"High risk for osteoarthritis, which is mostly affecting the knees and the hips," said Dr. Makhija. "High risk for sleep apnea, high risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke."

According to Dr. Makhija, technology has improved to help patients regulate blood sugar and insulin, but the disease has psychological impacts -- as many of her patients find it hard to accept the diagnosis and the lifestyle changes that come with it.