SHREVEPORT, La. - Tuesday, March 23, is the American Diabetes Association Diabetes Alert Day. With 7.2 million adults living in the United States who are unaware they have the disease, Diabetes Alert Day encourages individuals to find out if they are at risk and how to reduce that risk.

Willis-Knighton Health System

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The American Diabetes Association (ADA) created Diabetes Alert Day as a one-day “wake-up call,” inviting the public to take a Diabetes Risk Test to determine if they are at risk for developing diabetes. It is imperative to have an understanding of diabetes in order to recognize your risks early before it’s too late.

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when your body neither produces nor uses insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that prevents sugar from building up in your blood, causing high blood sugar.

There are three main types of diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your body does not make enough insulin, while Type 2 diabetes happens when your body does not use insulin properly. Obesity, age, genetics, smoking, and an inactive, sedentary lifestyle can lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

The third type, gestational diabetes, occurs when your body does not use insulin properly during pregnancy. Experts say only 2% of individuals with gestational diabetes actually develop diabetes after pregnancy. However, this condition does put the baby at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

How do I know if I have diabetes?

Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and urination, blurred vision, fatigue, confusion, numbness and tingling in your extremities, and high blood pressure that can make you feel shaky or dizzy.

In addition to recognizing your symptoms, you're urged to take a diabetes risk assessment test. In accordance with Diabetes Alert Day, you can take the ADA’s 60-second Diabetes Risk Test to determine your risk for developing diabetes. 

Early diagnosis of diabetes allows an individual to get proper treatment and gives them more time to make lifestyle changes. This will help them to manage their blood sugar and prevent long-term issues such as heart disease, stroke, eye, and kidney problems.
What complications are associated with diabetes?
People who have diabetes are at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and blood vessel damage throughout their entire body from their eyes, to their kidneys, and even feet.
Diabetes and high blood sugar cause sugar to attach to your red blood cells, leading to long-term damage in your blood vessels’ inner walls. This damage causes scar tissue to form, which can provoke a heart attack or stroke. Short-term complications of diabetes include both low blood sugar and high blood sugar.

If you are unaware that you have diabetes, you could have years and years of damage without ever knowing it. 

What can I do?

If you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it, you can begin to make healthy lifestyle changes like exercising regularly and maintaining healthy eating habits. 

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You should also monitor your blood sugar and know what your target value should be. According to ADA standards, your target blood sugar value should be between 70-130 in the morning and less than 180 two hours after eating.

It is crucial to seek help from your primary care physician if you are concerned about your risks.

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