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Diabetes Alert Day: Understanding your risk


Joy Stieber, RN, Aspirus Diabetes Education Coordinator.

Did you know that about one in five people in the U.S. with diabetes don’t know they have the disease? That’s 8.5 million people, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).


Diabetes Alert Day is observed annually on the fourth Tuesday in March by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), this year falling on March 28, 2023. It’s a one-day "wake-up call" that focuses on the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of understanding your risk.


Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is above normal, either because your body doesn't make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or doesn't properly make or use it (type 2 diabetes), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to other serious health issues or complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, nerve damage and foot problems.


“It’s a very serious disease that can harm nearly every part of the body. Learning that you have it and understanding how to manage it are crucial steps in avoiding complications,” says Joy Stieber, RN, Aspirus Diabetes Education Coordinator. “The tricky part is knowing if you have diabetes, as it doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to talk with your provider and get tested.”


When to get tested

There are many risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, including age, weight and lifestyle, according to ADA.


If you're 45 years of age or older, you should be tested for diabetes. If your test results are normal, you should be tested again at least every three years, according to the ADA.


If you're younger than 45, you should be tested for diabetes if you are overweight and:

  • Don't exercise regularly
  • Have an immediate family member with a history of diabetes
  • Are African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander
  • Have, or are being treated for, high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • Have a history of heart or blood vessel disease
  • Have other conditions associated with insulin resistance, such as acanthosis nigricans (a skin condition characterized by a dark, velvety rash around the groin, neck or armpits)
  • Have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Aspirus encourages you to find out if you—or someone you love—are at risk for type 2 diabetes by taking this quick and simple Diabetes Risk Assessment.


Risk reduction

“It’s also possible to have a condition called prediabetes, which is when blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. At this stage, some people may be able to prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes through small, purposeful and impactful lifestyle changes,” says Stieber.


NIDDK recommends making the following changes to lower your risk:


Lose weight and keep it off. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing five to seven percent of your starting weight. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose about 10 to 14 pounds.


Move more. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your health care professional about which activities are best. Start slowly to build up to your goal.


Eat healthy foods most of the time. Eat smaller portions to reduce the amount of calories you eat each day and help you lose weight. Decreasing added sugar and choosing foods with less fat is another way to reduce calories. Drink water instead of sweetened beverages.


Joy Stieber sees patients at Aspirus Wausau Hospital. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, talk to your provider about a referral to one of the Aspirus Diabetes Education Centers. Aspirus providers and specialists can help you with nutrition, exercise, medications, blood glucose monitoring, insulin pump therapy, intensive insulin management, avoiding complications and problem solving.



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