Be aware of the risks of diabetes

Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010

D iabetes has become the greatest public health crisis of the next quarter century. To address the burden of this disease, the American Diabetes Association is asking the American public, "What will you do to stop diabetes? Know your risk."

On March 23, the 22nd annual American Diabetes Association Alert Day, the association will encourage people to join the Stop Diabetes movement by taking the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and if they are at high risk, to speak with their health care provider.

The Diabetes Risk Test requires users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Risk Test will show users whether they are at low, moderate or high risk for pre-diabetes or diabetes. If they are at high risk, they are encouraged to talk with their health care provider.

Of the approximately 24 million Americans living with diabetes, nearly 6 million Americans have type 2 diabetes but don't even know it. Another 57 million, or one in five Americans have pre-diabetes, placing them at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. If current trends continue, one out of three children born today will face a future with diabetes.

Among the primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes are being overweight, sedentary, over the age of 45 and having a family history of diabetes. African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at an increased risk, as are women who have had babies weighing more than nine pounds at birth.

Unfortunately, people with type 2 diabetes can live for years without realizing that they have the disease. While people with diabetes can exhibit noticeable symptoms, such as frequent urination, blurred vision and excessive thirst, most people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes do not show these overt warning signs at the time that they develop the disease. Often, type 2 diabetes only becomes evident when people develop one or more of its serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage, or nerve damage that can lead to amputations.

Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by losing just 5-7 percent of body weight through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating. Armed with this information, gather your friends, family, loved one and co-workers and take a 30 minute walk and get started with a healthier lifestyle today!

Join the movement to Stop Diabetes and get your free Diabetes Risk Test (English or Spanish), healthy lifestyle tips and more. Call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit stopdiabetes.diabetes.org. Although Diabetes Alert Day is a one-day event, the Diabetes Risk Test is available all year long.

The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to stop diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

• Cynthia G. Nickerson is a certified diabetes educator at Bartlett Regional Hospital. This column was compiled from information provided by the American Diabetes Association.



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