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March 21, 2006 > Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

American Diabetes Alert Day Raises Awareness

The American Diabetes Alert is an annual, one day call-to-action organized by the American Diabetes Association for people to find out if they are at risk for diabetes. Tuesday, March 28 will serve as the day to help people find out if they are one of the six million Americans with undiagnosed diabetes. Diabetes Alert day serves to reinforce the seriousness of the disease and to identify those who are high risk for diabetes.

"The idea behind this alert is to try to make more people aware that diabetes is a serious disease," says Janice Wong, Washington Hospital R.N. and Inpatient Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). "It's important that people age 40 and above are aware of any possible symptoms that are associated with the disease because you can have diabetes and not even know it."

Commonly known as adult diabetes, Type 2 diabetes affects the body's ability to produce or respond to insulin, a hormone that allows blood glucose (blood sugar) to enter the cells of the body and be used for energy. Type 2 diabetes can occur at any age but it can be delayed or prevented.

While diabetes is a progressive disease with long-term complications, many people are unaware they have it until they begin experiencing serious side effects. If you have experienced any of the following symptoms, talk to a medical professional right away:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Undiagnosed, diabetes can be especially dangerous because the afflicted person isn't taking steps to manage the condition. This can lead to serious physical consequences affecting many parts of the body, including the eyes, kidneys, heart and limbs.
Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in the U.S. and a leading cause of kidney failure and non-traumatic leg and foot amputations. Moreover, people with diabetes face a dramatically higher risk of heart disease, stroke, nerve disease and dental disease.
Could you have diabetes and not know it?

There are several factors that may increase the risk of diabetes. Here is a checklist to consider:

  • You are age 45 or older.
  • You are a member of one of the following ethnic groups: Latino, African American, Pacific Islanders, American Indian.
  • You are carrying extra weight, especially around the middle.
  • You have high blood pressure (at or above 130/80).
  • Someone in your family has diabetes.
  • You had diabetes during pregnancy or had a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth.
  • You do not do any regular physical activity.

If two or more of these statements are true for you, you may be at risk. The most important step after diagnosis is seeking education from a qualified diabetes health care professional. Certified diabetic educators help patients learn about diabetes, how to modify their lifestyle and reduce their risks for the chronic complications of diabetes.

People at risk for developing diabetes need to modify their eating habits and start walking or doing some form of exercise, advises Wong.

"Most people that are 50 years of age are still eating like they are 30 years of age but their activity level has slowed down," says Wong. "Cutting down on the portions and a diet that includes fruit, vegetables and more fiber can really help."

Once someone has been diagnosed with diabetes, they can learn to monitor their blood sugar levels. Then, in cooperation with their physician and other health care professionals, they can adjust their medication, diet and exercise routine to decrease the likelihood of experiencing the devastating effects of this chronic disease.

If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes or has exhibited symptoms, you are not alone. Through proper education and self-management, you can help curb the toll diabetes takes.

Washington Hospital is offering a six-week diabetes education course in the month of May. Each class presentation will include valuable information on diabetes self-monitoring, nutritional meal planning, and methods to decrease risks for heart, kidney, eye and foot complications. The program will be held on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. starting on May 11 in the Washington West Auditoriums at 2500 Mowry Avenue. Seating is limited so registration is necessary for this fee-based program. To register, or for more information, please call Washington Hospital's Education Department at (510) 791-3470.

Outpatient nutrition counseling also is available at Washington Hospital for patients with a physician referral. Call (510) 745-6542.

To take the Diabetes Risk Test, visit the American Diabetes Association web site at
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