Diabetes Alert Day: Find Out Now If You're at Risk

When it comes to diabetes in the U.S., the rate of new cases has finally slowed, say U.S. public health officials. But the overall trend is still disturbing: More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and another 86 million are living with “prediabetes” (about 1-in-3 adults), a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Meanwhile, many Americans who fail to keep up with their routine doctor visits and blood screenings don’t even know they have type 2 diabetes or are at high risk of developing the chronic condition. Diabetes is when a person can’t make sufficient insulin (type 1) in their bodies or can’t use insulin properly (type 2 or adult-onset).

Diabetes Risk Test

On the fourth Tuesday of every March, designated as Diabetes Alert Day, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) encourages everyone to take less than five minutes and answer seven questions. At the end, you are given a number from 1 to 10 to determine your risk level, 10 being the highest.

(The Baptist Health South Florida News Team hears from Pascual De Santis, M.D., an endocrinologist with Baptist Health Medical Group. Video by George Carvalho.)

“The goal of Diabetes Alert Day is to identify patients who are at risk for diabetes or who have diabetes already and don’t know about it,” said Pascual De Santis, M.D., an endocrinologist with Baptist Health Medical Group. “There’s a very simple questionnaire found on the American Diabetes Association website. And we hope that is sufficient to get people motivated to see their primary care physician and be tested for diabetes.”

Even though many more Americans in recent years have become aware of the dangers of high blood sugar, an obesity epidemic stretching back at least four decades has helped fuel widespread diabetes or prediabetes. From 1980 through 2014, the number of Americans with diagnosed type 2 diabetes increased four-fold, from 5.5 million to 22.0 million, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Insulin allows blood sugar (glucose) to enter cells, where it can be used for energy. When the body doesn’t have enough insulin or can’t use it effectively, blood sugar builds up in the blood.

Preventing Diabetes

“It is very important to know you can prevent either the conversion to diabetes or prevent having long-term complications of diabetes if you are diagnosed with the disease,” said Dr. DeSantis.

Type 2 diabetes is preventable, even if you have more than one risk factor, including a family history with the disease, being overweight and sedentary, having high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol level. Age, race and gender also play a role in an individual’s level of risk.

“If you’re pre-diabetic, there is a good chance you can delay the appearance of diabetes or prevent it outright,” said Dr. DeSantis. “If you’re already diabetic, and you initiate intervention, then you are going to either significantly delay or prevent long-term complications.”

Those serious, long-term complications can include including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and even lower-extremity amputations.

“It’s important that you see you doctor right away if you feel you are at risk for diabetes,” Dr. DeSantis stresses.

Top Risk Factors

The following are risk factors for diabetes, with links to more information on each topic from the American Diabetes Association.

Watch the video now.

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