Aroostook County – It is estimated that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States, 8.3 percent of the population, have diabetes. In Maine, more than eight percent of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, and it is estimated that another 3.1 percent of Maine adults have diabetes but have not been diagnosed.
It is numbers such as these that have led the American Diabetes Association to sponsor a nationwide Diabetes Alert Day on March 25. This is a one-day “wake up call” asking the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The test asks users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes.
TAMC is honoring the day by going one step further. In addition to linking to the on-line Diabetes Risk Test on their website and offering printed copies of the test, the health care organization will be offering free diabetes screenings on March 25 at both the Fort Fairfield Health Center and the A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital in Presque Isle.
“Early detection is important to help control the disease and to decrease and control long-term complications like heart disease, kidney disease and nerve damage,” said Christine O’Meara, RN, BSN, the diabetes nurse educator at TAMC.
Statistics show that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Maine and is the leading cause of kidney failure and new cases of blindness. Aroostook County joins Washington and Piscataquis Counties in the state’s highest percentage (13%) of its population diagnosed with diabetes, and Aroostook County’s diabetes hospital admission rates are 17 percent higher than the State average, according to the OneMaine Statewide Community Health Needs Assessment in 2010.
O’Meara, who works regularly to educate patients and the public regarding diabetes and its complications, will be conducting the diabetes screenings, which consists of a simple finger prick to test an individual’s blood glucose (sugar). She will then go over the results and answer questions regarding the findings.
By publicizing the information on Diabetes Alert Day and offering the free screenings, O’Meara hopes to help raise awareness regarding the importance of knowing your risks.
“Before developing type 2 diabetes, most people develop prediabetes, which means their blood glucose levels are higher than normal,” explained O’Meara. “Since there are no clear symptoms of prediabetes, people can have it and not even know it. Once you are aware you have it, early detection can actually return blood glucose levels to the normal range for some people by taking steps such as losing weight and exercising.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 33 percent of U.S. adults have prediabetes, but that less than 10 percent know that they have it. The CDC anticipates an increase in diagnosed cases in coming years as diabetes prevention efforts are more prevalent.
The Diabetes Alert Day on March 25 is one such prevention effort. Locally, community members are invited to come to the Fort Fairfield Health Center, located on 23 High Street in Fort Fairfield, from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. or to A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital on Academy Street in Presque Isle from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. In Presque Isle, visitors should park and enter through the Pinkham entrance at the rear of the hospital.
For more information about the free diabetes screenings, you can contact O’Meara at 207.768.4529. To take the Diabetes Risk Test, visit the TAMC website at www.tamc.org.