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Diabetes: Keep the Sugar at Arm’s Length

With the candy-filled day of Halloween behind us and winter holidays ahead, it’s safe to say most of us are having our fair share of sweet treats these days. All that sugar has an effect on our blood glucose level, and over time can lead to prediabetes and diabetes.

Approximately one in three American adults have prediabetes – where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes – and more than 80 percent of those adults don’t know it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Should You Get Screened for Prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently updated its screening recommendations for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. As of 2015, the USPSTF recommended adults between the ages of 40 and 70 who are overweight or obese be screened for abnormal glucose levels. The new recommendation lowers the screening age to 35. Data shows the prevalence of diabetes in U.S. adults increases at age 35 and that modifying behaviors, taking medications or a combination of the two are effective for people in this age group.

How can health fairs help identify prediabetes and diabetes?

Blood glucose levels are one of several health numbers measured at LIUNA-sponsored health fairs. If your glucose test results are elevated or high, contact your doctor. Your doctor will assess your risk and may perform additional tests, like a blood test in a fasting state.

Getting screened at a health fair doesn’t replace an annual physical or doctor visit, but is still valuable to your overall health. The aim is to tackle an issue before it becomes a serious problem.

The CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report found that 13 percent of all U.S. adults have already been diagnosed with diabetes and almost 35 percent meet the criteria. Starting screening at age 35 – even if people don’t yet show symptoms for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes – allows for earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment.

The USPSTF screening recommendation is for adults who are overweight or obese and asymptomatic. Contact your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Urinate a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Are very hungry
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

The CDC’s prediabetes risk test can help you decide if further screening is right for you. Prediabetes and diabetes can only be determined by a blood test, so see your doctor for an official diagnosis.

Lifestyle Modifications to Reduce Risk

Recommended lifestyle modifications come in the form of nutrition, physical activity and weight management. These behaviors are always recommended to lead a long and healthy life, and are especially important if you’re prediabetic or at increased risk for diabetes.

Regular physical activity – like a 30-minute brisk walk most days of the week – along with losing five to seven percent of your body weight (10-14 pounds for a 200-pound person) can lower your risk. In addition, eat plenty of non-starchy, leafy green vegetables, choose whole foods instead of processed foods and avoid foods with added sugars and refined grains.

Risk factors for diabetes include being overweight or obese, getting older (age 45 and up), having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes and leading a sedentary lifestyle (physically active less than three times a week).

For more information about diabetes, healthy eating and physical activity, check out these LHSFNA publications:

[Emily Smith is the LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Manager.]

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