The American Diabetes Association has designated March 22, 2017 as American Diabetes Alert Day. The purpose of this designation is to make Americans more aware of the health risk of prediabetes and diabetes. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016 show that more than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is caused by several factors including genetics and environment. Under these circumstances when the body can no longer produce enough insulin to maintain blood sugar at a normal level, prediabetes or diabetes occurs. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for the individual to receive a diagnosis of diabetes. Eighty-six million Americans have pre-diabetes, a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. One half of all Americans aged 65 years and older have prediabetes. Only seven percent of Americans with prediabetes are aware that they have this condition. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in overweight or obese middle-aged and older people. In addition, those with a family history of diabetes, physically inactive, or of African American, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander descent are at greater risk of developing prediabetes and/or diabetes. Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes were at one time rare in youth but are becoming more common as an increasing number of children and adolescents are diagnosed as overweight or obese. Excess abdominal fat, also known as central obesity, is a major risk for both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes as well as heart and blood vessel disease. Central obesity is known to produce hormones and other substances that have chronic and long-term effects including damage to blood vessels. Diabetes is a major cause of kidney failure, foot and leg amputation, blindness among adults, heart disease and stroke. Because individuals with prediabetes often go undiagnosed for long periods of time, they are at risk for the same health problems that impact those with diabetes. Studies have found that individuals with prediabetes who lose weight, increase physical activity and eat a diet low in fat and calories can successfully prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and in some cases return their blood glucose levels to normal. A prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes diagnosis does not necessarily mean a sentence to life threatening complications. The National Diabetes Education Program states that "diabetes prevention is proven, possible and powerful." Yearly annual checkups - often overlooked by adults - can help to identify early signs of both prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. In addition, lifestyle changes in the form of diet, exercise, weight loss and stress reduction can positively impact one's health and make a difference in an individual's longevity and quality of life. A simple way to learn your risk for diabetes without leaving your desk is to go to the American Diabetes Association Alert Day page at diabetes.organd take the Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. If you are at risk, now is the time to take action to strive for better health and wellness!
References: American Diabetes Association, diabetes.org
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/
National Diabetes Education Program, http://ndep.nih.gov/
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, http://www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/
Connie Pearson, RN, MN, Chair
Health Ministries Task Force