Are you at risk for diabetes? Get the facts.

Over 30 million people in the U.S. are living with diabetes. Many have the disease and don’t even realize it, and millions more are at risk for diabetes. Though diabetes cannot be cured, the sooner people are diagnosed, the more they can do to educate themselves and manage their condition.

Sharon Donnenwerth, a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator with Covenant HealthCare, sat down with WNEM-TV’s Craig McMorris to discuss the importance of diabetes awareness and education.

“It’s very important for people to realize if they’re at risk for diabetes,” Sharon says. She recommends that everyone use the online diabetes risk assessment tool from the American Diabetes Association. Some factors that may put you at higher risk include:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Inactivity
  • Age over 45 years
  • African, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Islander heritage
  • A history of gestational diabetes (high blood sugar while pregnant)
  • Having delivered a baby of 9 or more pounds

In addition, watch for these symptoms of diabetes:

  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss, even with increased appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing of wounds or infections
  • Tingling or numbness in hands, legs or feet
  • Vomiting or stomach pain
  • Sexual problems (impotence in men, decrease in vaginal fluids for women)

Sharon advises that anyone who experiences these symptoms or scores high on the risk assessment should “see their doctor, have a blood test and see if their blood sugar or blood glucose is high.”

How does diabetes happen?

Normally, the pancreas creates insulin, a chemical that helps your body use glucose (a form of sugar) for energy. If your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, or your cells can’t use the insulin properly, there will be too much glucose left in your blood. This condition is known as diabetes.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you will need to take daily insulin shots and manage your diet carefully.

In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes some insulin, but it isn’t enough. Or, in some cases, the pancreas makes insulin, but the cells can’t use it properly. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can manage their condition with proper diet and exercise alone. Others will also need medication.

How diabetes is treated

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will probably recommend that you:

  • Monitor your blood sugar regularly
  • Take your medication or insulin as prescribed
  • Exercise and keep active
  • Eat three meals and up to two snacks daily

Sharon cautions persons living with diabetes against skipping meals. “It’s really not recommended,” she says. “Even if you don’t call it a meal, at least have a snack.”

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, know that with the right lifestyle changes, you can live a healthy, active life. Education is key – and the Covenant Diabetes Center can help.

Posted Date: 10/17/2018

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