Alert Day: Don’t be a Risk Taker

By David G. Marrero, PhD President, Health Care & Education, 2015, American Diabetes Association

Let me share some shocking statistics with you: Of the nearly 30 million people in the United States with diabetes, a quarter of them don’t even know they have the disease; that’s 8 million people! This is quite serious since many of these individuals can have diabetes for years before it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, this allows many of the serious complications associated with poorly controlled diabetes (heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, amputations) to develop. People with type 2 diabetes don’t always show symptoms at first. As a result, many go 7 to 10 years without a diagnosis. By that time, damage to their bodies has already been done.

On top of this, 86 million American adults have prediabetes, a metabolic condition that increases risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In prediabetes blood glucose (sugar) is higher than normal, but not high enough (yet) to be called type 2 diabetes. Type 2 accounts for about 95 percent of diabetes diagnoses in the United States.

Now ask yourself: Could this be me, or someone I know? Fortunately, there are ways that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed when individuals arm themselves with knowledge about their health. Equally fortunate, it’s pretty easy to assess your risk.

Today is the American Diabetes Association Alert Day®. Held each year on the fourth Tuesday in March, it’s the Association’s “wake up call” asking Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test to learn their risk for type 2 diabetes.

The brief Diabetes Risk Test asks simple questions about your weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors. It gives you a numeric score representing your risk for developing type 2 diabetes—and provides steps you can take to lower that risk, if needed.

Who’s at Risk?

Diabetes is serious, and early diagnosis is crucial to successful treatment. Many people don’t realize it, but this disease can affect anyone.

People who are overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle and over the age of 45 should consider themselves at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Your background matters, too: African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and people who have a family history of type 2 diabetes also are at an increased risk for developing the disease.

Take it. Share it. Step Out.

The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be largely prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes such as modest weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating healthfully. But first, you must know your risk.  There is ample evidence that if you are overweight, losing 7 percent of your weight can reduce your risk by 58-60 percent.  For many people this is 12-17 pounds!

Take the time to find out if you or someone you know is at risk for type 2 diabetes, then follow up with your doctor. And if you’re in the health care field, know that the Association’s Diabetes Risk Test is available to your patients in English and in Spanish, online and in print. You can call 1-800-DIABETES to obtain paper copies. While Alert Day starts on March 24 and continues through April 21, the test is available year-round on the Association’s website.

This year, Walgreens is supporting the Alert Day, so you can also ask your local pharmacist for a copy of the Diabetes Risk Test.

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise, and signing up for Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® is a fantastic way to support the Association while getting more active. These events are held in cities nationwide, mostly in the fall. So find the walk nearest you and consider joining a team or starting one of your own.

For 75 years, the American Diabetes Association has been committed to preventing and curing diabetes and improving the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Though much progress has been made since the organization was founded in 1940, there is still much work to be done.

Each person who takes our test and acts on the results gets us that much closer to stopping diabetes. Don’t wait any longer. Take the test now:

Take it. Share it. Step Out. You need to know. #DiabetesAlert

About David G. Marrero, PhD
Dr. Marrero is the American Diabetes Association’s President of Health Care & Education and the J.O. Ritchey Endowed Professor of Medicine and Director, Diabetes Translational Research Center, at Indiana University School of Medicine. He has worked in diabetes education and research for more than 38 years and has more than 300 publications in lay and professional journals.