Rachel Arrington was still reeling.
In March 2019, Type 2 diabetes had taken Rachel’s mother, Marjorie. Years of painful, diabetes-triggered complications, chronic conditions, and wrenching procedures – heart and kidney failure, bypass surgeries, dialysis, a lost foot – had preceded Marjorie’s death.
In autumn 2019, Rachel was still working through the fog of a world without her mom when she received some distressing news: She also had Type 2 diabetes.
“It killed my mother,” said Arrington, 46, a pharmacy coordinator at Capital Blue Cross. “Seven months later, I’m being diagnosed with the same thing. It took me awhile to get a handle on that. I was still grieving her loss.”
Then came the pandemic, with all its physical and mental health challenges. The fear, anxiety, and isolation that accompanied COVID-19 was hardly conducive to Arrington gaining control of her disease.
A dietitian’s intervention
Arrington’s story eventually took a positive turn, but it serves as both a sobering and hopeful reminder during this American Diabetes Month
Early this year, Arrington’s doctor, deeply concerned over her spiked A1C levels (an average of blood-glucose readings), prescribed medication. Her dad, haunted by her mother’s passing and the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the family, begged her to get help.
She finally did.
“Eventually I was able to pull myself together,” Arrington said, “and say, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m going to die from the same thing that killed my mother.’ ”
Rachel scheduled a consultation with registered Capital Blue Cross dietitian Emma Sharp, and it changed the direction of her diabetes battle. Sharp had a thorough conversation about all the things that make Arrington – well, Arrington.
“It’s important to note that nutrition is a super-individualized science,” Sharp said. “So the first things we talk about are things that might be unique to the person, like in Rachel’s case her food allergies.”
Arrington and Sharp had a series of consultations, and together devised a tailor-made plan – specific to Arrington’s needs in terms of diet, exercise, and lifestyle – that put Arrington on a path to diabetes control.
Anything but Rare
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 11.3% of the U.S. population, or 37.3 million Americans, have diabetes. Nearly 91% of them, like Arrington, her mother and many in her family, have Type 2 diabetes. The disease is even more prevalent among Black people, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
It’s no wonder diabetes remains America’s seventh-leading killer, connected to more than a quarter million annual deaths, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
It also costs the U.S. nearly $330 billion a year, including $90 billion in lost productivity.
We can better manage diabetes by choosing – or urging our friends and family to choose – healthier lifestyle choices, and by selecting healthcare plans that both cover diabetes services and offer modern approaches to diabetes management. Capital Blue Cross, for instance, has recently expanded its broad diabetes treatment and preventive-services coverage with innovative technology.
Capital is the only Pennsylvania health insurer to offer a one-of-a-kind app that works to reverse Type 2 diabetes via a well-formulated, ketogenic diet that helps the body use fat, rather than carbohydrates, as its primary fuel. Capital also offers a separate app that helps members reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and helps those with types 1 or 2 manage their disease.
Capital Blue Cross reaches out to high-risk members with diabetes to provide care management opportunities, and offers multiple programs to employer groups, including a diabetes presentation, an awareness toolkit, and Take Charge, a virtual, self-paced course that helps participants develop lifestyle habits to control diabetes.
Through health guides and dietitians like Sharp, Capital also offers one-on-one consultations at any of five Capital Blue Cross Connect health and wellness centers across the region.
On the Right Road
Arrington hasn’t just listened to Sharp. She’s lived the plan she and Sharp devised, and has made the necessary dietary and lifestyle modifications, such as weight training and walking at least a half hour every day.
Her A1C has dipped from a high of 8.3 in January to 7.4 – halfway to her goal of 6.5.
“I’m in a much better place, Arrington said. “One of the meetings I had with Emma, we talked about how it was going. She really helped me to come up with a game plan for when I’m distressed. That was key.
“I’m telling my body, ‘Hey, I want you to heal. I don’t want you to be in this place anymore.’ These things don’t have to be the end for people with diabetes. They can be just a wakeup call.”