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November is American Diabetes Month: Know Your Risk

Fitday Editor
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In celebration of American Diabetes Month, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is encouraging everyone to assess personal risk factors, recognize symptoms and focus on prevention of diabetes. In the United States 24 million people live with diabetes while another 57 million are at high risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is a debilitating disease and decreases both quality and quantity of life. In the past 20 years, deaths due to diabetes have increased by 45percent. With an annual $174 billion dollar price tag, diabetes adds astronomical stress to an already overstretched healthcare budget. On average, individuals with diabetes spend 2.3 times more money on healthcare than people without diabetes.

Diabetes largely goes undiagnosed due to slow progression and lack of symptom awareness. Symptoms may be subtle and commonly confused with the "wear and tear" of everyday life. Common symptoms include frequent urination, thirst and/or hunger. If you notice increased trips to the bathroom or never feeling adequately hydrated, it could be a sign of diabetes. Fatigue, irritability, weight changes, blurred vision, darkened skin pigment around neck, armpit or groin, frequent infections, numbness and tingling in extremities and poor wound healing are also warning signs. If you are experiencing any symptoms, schedule an appointment with a physician.

Approximately 1/3 of individuals with type-2 diabetes experience no symptoms and may go undiagnosed for years. The ADA recommends all individuals 45 years or older and overweight be tested. For overweight individuals under the age of 45, it is advised to consult with your physician to see if testing is recommended. Normal weight individuals with risk factors such as family history, Hispanic or African American ethnicity, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, irregular lipid levels, gestational diabetes or past birth of a baby more than 9 pounds should also be tested. Follow up testing for normal and pre-diabetes levels are encouraged every 3 years and 1 to 2 years respectively.

Individuals with pre-diabetes have a 50 percent increased risk for heart disease and stroke but healthy lifestyle changes can drastically reduce risk and prevent full-blown diabetes. The first and most effective step is losing weight through healthy eating, reduced portion sizes and physical activity. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) showed diet and exercise were more effective than medications to delay the development of diabetes. In this particular study, 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity combined with a 5-10 percent reduction in body weight reduced diabetes development by 58 percent.

It is important for individuals with diabetes to focus on maintaining tight glycemic control. When diabetes is not controlled, long-term complications can affect multiple organs. Currently 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have nerve damage which may result in amputation, blindness, kidney failure, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and heart and blood vessel dysfunction. The leading cause of death for people with diabetes is heart disease or stroke. Overall, the importance of evaluating your personal risk for diabetes and assessing symptoms is integral. Remember early detection leads to early treatment and decreased complications.

Laura N. Kenny is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian in the state of Indiana. She received both her Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and completed her dietetic internship at Purdue University. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree from Central Michigan University. Laura works for the Indiana Obesity Center PC under the supervision of Dr. Keith McEwen. She specializes in both surgical and non-surgical weight loss including nutritional adherence, meal planning, and macro/micro nutrient status. Kenny also promotes healthy eating through various speaking engagements throughout Indianapolis and teaches indoor cycling and Pilates classes in her free time. Since staring her dietetics career, she has worked with a variety of populations and chronic diseases. Each summer Laura volunteers at Camp John Warvel, a camp for children with diabetes. She also enjoys writing, sports, exercise, and reading "hot topics" in nutrition. Laura has a true passion for guiding people to choose healthy nutritional choices for each and every individual lifestyle. To contact Laura, email her at She can be reached via email at at

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