On Tuesday, March 26, the American Diabetes Association celebrates its 25th annual Alert Day. Alert Day, which is recognized the fourth Tuesday in March each year, is a one-day “wake-up call” encouraging Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Why is there such a concern that people be in the know about their diabetes state? Unbeknownst to them, there are an estimated 79 million, or one in three American adults, walking around with pre-diabetes. There are approximately 26 million Americans with diabetes, but about 7 million aren’t even aware that they have it.
Unfortunately diagnosis often comes seven to 10 years after the onset of the disease, allowing complications time to develop. Early diagnosis is critical.
Pre-diabetes is what may have been referred to in the past as “a touch of sugar” or having “borderline” diabetes. There is no such thing as borderline diabetes — either you have it or you don’t.
Pre-diabetes is having blood glucose (sugar) that is higher than normal, but not high enough to meet the criteria to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This state of pre-diabetes indicates a relatively high risk for developing diabetes. However, with lifestyle changes such as weight loss of as little as 7 percent (example: if you weigh 210 pounds this would be a weight loss of 14 pounds) and increased physical activity, one can delay or prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
Some segments of the population are at greater risk for having undiagnosed diabetes than others. They include:
— Ethnic populations: High-risk ethnic populations include African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
— Gender: The rate of diabetes is about the same for men and women but men are twice as likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.
Other risk factors for diabetes include:
— Having a family member with diabetes: People who have a mother, father, sister or brother with diabetes are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes themselves.
— Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy: Women who have had gestational diabetes are up to seven 7 times as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as women who didn’t have diabetes in pregnancy.
— Older Americans: As people age, they are at an increased risk for developing diabetes; one out of every four Americans 65 and older has diabetes.
— Having high blood pressure: People with high blood pressure are twice as likely to have diabetes as people who don’t have high blood pressure.
— Not being active enough: Being physically active lowers your risk for having diabetes by 30 percent.
— Being overweight: The risk for Type 2 diabetes increases with increasing weight.
Take the time today and find out your diabetes risk. It is quick and easy. Go to stopdiabetes.com, click on “Get the Facts” then “The Risk” and answer the questions. If you would rather take a paper and pencil test, you can download a copy and answer the questions and calculate your own results.
If you are having lunch with two other people today, look to your left, then look to your right. One of the three of you has pre-diabetes.
Georgia Clark-Albert, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.