Monday, March 25, 2013

Diabetes Alert Day

     It’s not as festive as St. Patrick’s Day and it’s not a paid holiday, but many healthcare experts will argue that Diabetes Alert Day is one of the most important days of the year.

     Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the U.S. and is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Experts predict that by 2050, one in three U.S. adults could develop diabetes.*

     Type 2 diabetes develops over time. “You don’t wake up one day with a blood sugar level of 300,” says Laurie Sandberg, RN, B.S.N., certified diabetes educator. With type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas stops producing insulin. Yet very often people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. That’s why the American Diabetes Association promotes a one-day “wake up call” to help people understand their risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
     Your diabetes radar should be up if you have a family member with type 2 diabetes, are overweight (especially storing excess fat in your belly), lead an inactive lifestyle and are older. People more likely to develop type 2 diabetes also include African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans and women diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

     Diabetes Alert Day is about prevention. “Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed, but you need to discover it early,” says Sandberg. Left undetected or poorly managed, diabetes can cause nerve, liver, kidney and eye damage as well as heart and blood vessel disease. But often people are afraid or don’t want to know if they are diabetic.

     The first thing you need to do is go to and take the Diabetes Risk Test or go to the American Diabetes Association’s Facebook page. The test takes about one minute and asks you questions about your age, family medical history, exercise habits, weight and height and medical conditions. If you score a five or higher, you’re at risk for developing diabetes and should talk to your primary care physician.

     Your doctor may order a fasting blood glucose test and a hemoglobin A1C test (a test that measures your blood sugar level over three months). A normal fasting blood sugar range is between 70-99. A reading of 126 or higher means you’re diabetic and any number in between 100 and 125 is considered prediabetic. Here’s the good news: people with prediabetes who lose weight and increase their physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, and in some cases return their blood glucose levels to normal.

    Having a diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes doesn't mean a life of misery or future complications—you just need to manage it. With the help of your primary care physician and diabetes support, you can take control of the disease and not let it control you. Meritus Endocrine, Nutrition and Diabetes Education Center (MEND) supports diabetics by providing education and nutrition planning from a nurse certified diabetes educator and a registered dietitian. Medicare and most other insurers cover diabetes education and nutrition services.

     Most of the time, diabetes can be controlled with diet, exercise, weight loss and oral medication. You just need to stay ahead of it, get diabetes support and don’t let it overwhelm you.

By: Anne Gill 

* American Diabetes Association

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