Diabetes Network News | Published November 6, 2006 | Written by Amy Leffard, RN, certified diabetes educator, Mount Nittany Health Diabetes Network

Are You At Risk For Diabetes?

Over 21 million people in the United States now have diabetes. Medical experts think that 41 million people nationwide have pre-diabetes.

Pre-diabetes is a condition you might have and not even know it. There are no real symptoms you might notice if you have pre-diabetes. Often the only way you might find out if you have it is if you have blood work done for another procedure. Your doctor might see that your blood glucose level is higher than normal but not as high as someone who has diabetes.

So, what does having pre-diabetes mean? It means that you probably will get diabetes sometime in your life. We don't always know when that might happen, but it is fairly certain you will end up with diabetes if left untreated.

What kinds of things put you at risk for diabetes and pre-diabetes?

  • Being overweight, especially if most of that excess weight is around the waist

  • Getting very little exercise or none at all

  • Growing older (chances increase after age 45 and greatly increase after age 65)

  • Having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes

  • If you had diabetes when you were pregnant

  • If you gave birth to a baby that weighed over 9 pounds

  • If you are of African American, Latino or Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, or Pacify Islander origin

If you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol or fats in your blood, you might also be at risk. Your doctor can order a blood test for the cholesterol and fats in your blood. It is important to have these tested and keep them in a normal range. Blood pressure should be less than 130/80 and checked at every doctor visit, cholesterol 200 or less, and triglycerides 150 or less. If your results are more than this, your doctor may suggest some changes in the way you eat and exercise as well as starting medicines that work to lower these numbers.

How is pre-diabetes treated? In a lot of ways it is the same as treating diabetes, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and high fiber foods

  • Getting daily activity like walking, swimming, bicycling, gardening or work that makes you sweat a little

  • Reducing and controlling stress

  • Taking medicine your doctor has prescribed for you

  • Keeping regular doctor appointments

It is estimated that 4,000 people a day are told by their doctors that they have diabetes and many more with pre-diabetes may not be aware of their risk. As you can see, we have a growing problem.

November is National Diabetes Month, which is a time for everyone to think about their risk and get tested if it is high. If you think you might be at risk for diabetes or think you might already have pre-diabetes, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you decide what you need to do next. Whether or not you test positive, eat for health, move your body, and enjoy life!

Mount Nittany Medical Center will host a free diabetes screening that is open to the public on November 30 from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Diabetes Foot Clinic, located on the ground floor of the medical center.

Amy Leffard is the diabetic educator at Mount Nittany Medical Center.