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March 24 is American Diabetes Alert Day: Are You at Risk?

March 24 is American Diabetes Alert Day: Are You at Risk?

Monday, 02 March 2009

Almost 24 million people in the United States have diabetes. But did you know that more than 65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke? March 24 is American Diabetes Alert Day, an annual, one-day call-to-action by the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness that diabetes is serious, you can have diabetes and not even know it, and that it is important to find out if you are at risk for the disease.

Most people with diabetes have risk factors that are linked to heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), when combined with diabetes, these risk factors add up to big trouble. For people with diabetes, heart attacks can occur earlier in life and often result in death. By managing diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, people with diabetes can reduce their risk. It is important to understand the disease and the risk factors and symptoms associated with it.

Among the primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes are being overweight, sedentary, over the age of 45, and having a family history of diabetes. In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) reports that more than 23 percent of American adults over the age of 60 have diabetes. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders are also at an increased risk, as are women who have had babies weighing more than nine pounds at birth.

Unfortunately, people with type 2 diabetes can live for years without realizing that they have the disease. While people with diabetes can exhibit noticeable symptoms, such as frequent urination, blurred vision, and excessive thirst, most people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes do not show these overt warning signs at the time that they develop the disease. Often, type 2 diabetes only becomes evident when people develop one or more of its serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage, or nerve damage that can lead to amputations.

Early detection is crucial to helping prevent long-term damage to the body. The sooner diabetes is detected, the sooner lifestyle changes can be made to help counter the disease. Individuals who think they are at risk of developing diabetes should take precautions, such as losing weight and eating right, to help prevent the disease. Being aware of the risks and making changes in lifestyle now can lead to a healthier, longer life, free of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The American Diabetes Association offers an online risk test to help you determine your risk level for type 2 diabetes. Take the test at www.diabetes.org/risk-test.jsp. Learn more about diabetes from the ADA, NIDDKD, and the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program.

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