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Diabetes affects nearly 30 million children and adults in the U.S. today—that’s nearly 10 percent of the population. Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin (type 1) or , your body can’t use its own insulin as well as it should (type 2).

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.

Type 2 diabetes was previously called adult-onset diabetes, and may account for about 90% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly (insulin resistance). At first, your pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar at normal levels.

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If not treated, it can cause problems for mothers and babies.

Other types of diabetes may be caused by specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections and other illnesses.

Why is Diabetes a Problem?
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and lead to lower-extremity amputations.

  • Direct medical costs reach $176 billion, and indirect costs amount to $69 billion from disability, work loss and premature mortality.
  • The average medical expenditure among people with diabetes is more than two times higher than those without the disease.
  • 1 in 10 health care dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications.
  • 1 in 5 health care dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes.

Get screened; until you know your number, you don’t know where you stand.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have launched a national initiative to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes, called “Prevent Diabetes STAT: Screen, Test, Act – Today. They have developed a toolkit to spotlight the importance of working with prediabetic individuals (those with higher than normal glucose levels, but not yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetics).

What is Your Number?
Employers, insurers and community organizations are key stakeholders in helping screen and detect individuals that have prediabetes and who can take action to prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes. Simple point-of-care laboratory screening tests exist to measure blood sugar and lipid profiles, and can be a part of your health fair or wellness initiatives. Once identified, in conjunction with guidance from their primary physician, accomplishing moderate weight loss through healthy eating and appropriate increased physical activity will help stop the progression to this potentially debilitating chronic disease.

There are many reliable information resources available at the ADA’s website, www.diabetes.org or the CDC’s site, www.cdc.gov.

Screen, Test, Act – Today. One blood sugar reading is not a diagnosis. Get screened; until you know your number, you don’t know where you stand. Your Occupational Health Nurse and/or your primary care physician can help you get started.