1 November 11 Diabetes – Get Tested!

November is American Diabetes Month.

I work as a diabetes educator and I am always surprised when patients are shocked that they have developed diabetes. We pretty much load the odds against us with a lifestyle that almost guarantees development of Type 2 diabetes: being overweight and inactive. Sure, having a genetic predisposition ups the ante, but by far, prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes are lifestyle diseases.

Definition

Diabetes is a disease whereby the body is no longer able to keep its blood glucose level within a safe range for health. That is, a person's blood glucose level is too high. This can happen when the pancreas (an organ) can no longer produce enough insulin (a hormone) to allow cells to take up glucose from the blood, when cells are unable to use existing insulin effectively, and when the liver overproduces glucose. There are many tragic long term consequences of having uncontrolled diabetes, including a double to quadruple risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, amputation, kidney failure, and blindness.

Get Screened

The American Diabetes Association has a quick online risk screener. The screener asks about these factors: your sex, age, if you had gestational diabetes (or diabetes of pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 lbs or more), if you have an immediate family member with diabetes, your race or ethnicity, height, weight, presence of high blood pressure, and activity level. Please be sure to take the time to take this screener.

Get Tested

Unfortunately, people often have diabetes for years before they are diagnosed. The classic symptoms of high blood sugar (> 200 mg/dL) are: frequent urination (having to pee a lot), extreme thirst, extreme fatigue, and blurry vision. Don't wait until you have these symptoms – at this point you might already have damage to your eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. Be kind to yourself - simply get tested for diabetes early on, before any symptoms develop. Ideally, every person over the age of 45 years should get tested for diabetes every year. If you are younger than 45 years and are overweight, then get tested if you also have any other risk factor listed here:

  • Very little physical activity
  • A family member with diabetes
  • Race or ethnicity identified as: African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander
  • Had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby 9 lbs or heavier
  • Have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease
  • Have low HDLs or high triglycerides levels
If you do not see a doctor regularly, then search for local health fairs that offer free or reduced cost blood glucose tests. As well, the American Diabetes Association runs free Expos all over the U.S. – you can check their website for more information.

Can You Prevent Diabetes?

Most of you reading this post are either trying to lose weight or trying to maintain your hard-earned weight loss. Good for you since the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) has shown that two lifestyle factors can dramatically drop your risk of progressing from prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes:
  • Losing just 7% of your starting body weight (that is, 0.07 x body weight)
  • Exercising just 150 minutes a week (e.g. 30 minutes x 5 days per week)
These are achievable goals for most of us. Please see the DPP Fact Sheet for more information about this important study.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Diabetes/Preventing Diabetes

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