American Diabetes Assoc. Alert Day, which is held every fourth Tuesday in March, is a one-day ‘wake-up call’ asking the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
The Diabetes Risk Test asks users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history, and other potential risks for pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Preventive tips are provided for everyone who takes the test, including encouraging those at high risk to talk with their healthcare provider. To take the test, visit diabetes.org and click on “Are You At Risk?”
Dr. Robert Cooper, an endocrinologist at Baystate Medical Center, and Dr. Rushika Conroy, an endocrinologist at Baystate Children’s Hospital, offer the following helpful information on pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Q: What is pre-diabetes?
A: It is when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Pre-diabetes is a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes and also puts you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease.
Q: Why do they call pre-diabetes a silent condition?
A: Most people will have no symptoms for several years, until it’s too late and symptoms start to occur, signaling your progression to type 2 diabetes. That’s a good reason not to skip your well visits with your primary-care physician.
Q: What is diabetes, and when do you reach that point?
A: Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that aids in the conversion of sugar, starches, and other foods into energy that is needed for daily life. People with type 1 diabetes, previously called juvenile-onset diabetes, have a total lack of insulin, which requires insulin injections or a pump. Those with type 2 diabetes, previously called adult-onset diabetes, have insulin, but cannot use it effectively and are in a state of ‘insulin resistance’ requiring medications and/or insulin injections.
Q: What are the symptoms of diabetes?
A. Symptoms include frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, and extreme fatigue and irritability. Also, those with type 2 diabetes may have frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, and recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections.
Q: Can diabetes cause any health complications?
A: If left untreated or not managed properly, people with diabetes put themselves in harm’s way for serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney damage, and limb amputations.
Q: What are the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes?
A: Your risk for diabetes increases as you get older, especially if you are over the age of 45. Additional risk factors include being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Also, African-Americans and Hispanics are more at risk for the disease.
Q: Is there any way to prevent developing diabetes?
A: You can delay or prevent getting diabetes by following a healthy diet, becoming more active and sitting less, and losing weight in the process.
Q: Can children develop type 2 diabetes?
A: According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 167,000 children and teens younger than 20 have type 1 diabetes. However, more children today are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in youth is clearly linked to their being overweight or obese. The same risk factors for type 2 diabetes that exist for adults also exist for kids. What makes matters worse is that treatment options for children are fewer than what is available for adults (metformin and insulin only), and they typically do not respond as well to oral medication alone.
Q: How concerning is type 2 diabetes for children?
A: The other diseases that an adult can develop from years of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes can also develop in children and adolescents in the same amount of time, suggesting this may be the first generation of children who do not outlive their parents.
Q: Can you prevent a child from developing type 2 diabetes?
A: Prevention of type 2 diabetes in youth is no different than it is for adults, and involves lifestyle modifications such as increasing daily activity; reducing the intake of calorically dense, nutrient-poor foods; and increasing the consumption of nutrient-rich foods.