Millions at risk for diabetes but don’t know it


Millions at risk for diabetes but don’t know it

Diabetes is one of the most common and most devastating diseases in America today. In all, more than 30 million Americans—nearly 10 percent of the total population—have diabetes, including more than 1 million children and 12 million seniors.
It is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S., and 1.5 million Americans are newly diagnosed each year.
Diabetes is a serious health condition—one that can cause cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, skin conditions and even dementia–and, for medical professionals especially, perhaps the greatest frustration they face when working to address this nationwide health issue is this: Many cases of diabetes are preventable.
“We know there are 30 million Americans who have diabetes, but there’s another 89 million Americans who have prediabetes,” explains Mary Gianforte, a dietitian with the Tidelands Health Diabetes Center in Murrells Inlet. “What this means is that if these individuals don’t do anything about (their health), they will develop diabetes.”
At Tidelands Health, Gianforte is working with a team of health professionals to help prevent the spread of diabetes in our region—mostly by stopping it before it can fully develop in at-risk individuals. Through the Tidelands Health Diabetes Prevention Program, the health system offers education, support and guidance to help reduce the incidence of diabetes in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, where rates of diabetes are substantially higher than the national average.
“Education is a critical cornerstone in the treatment of diabetes,” Gianforte explains. “The more you know, the better you can care for yourself.”

Knowledge is power

Indeed, a major focus of the broader national fight against the disease is education—and helping people not only understand how common the condition has become, but also that they might be at risk even if they aren’t experiencing any symptoms.
And for prediabetes, that is more often the case than not.
“Even once you develop diabetes, there may be no symptoms,” Gianforte says. “There are millions of people out there who have diabetes and simply don’t know it. Most people who get diagnosed have already had it for 5-10 years and complications have already set in.”
By definition, prediabetes means that an individual’s blood sugar level is higher than normal—just not quite high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes. Blood sugar levels of 126 or higher indicate diabetes. Blood sugar levels between 100 and 125 indicate prediabetes. Once a patient has prediabetes, they are often well on their way to having full diabetes.

Prevention is possible

But the good news, Gianforte says, is diabetes can be delayed and even prevented. A major clinical trial found that losing just 5-7 percent of current body weight and participating in 150 minutes of physical activity per week can significantly reduce your risk of diabetes.
“We can’t change your genetics or family history,” she says, “but lifestyle is modifiable. If somebody knows they are genetically predisposed to developing diabetes, it really behooves them to make some lifestyle changes. And that’s what our prediabetes program is all about.”
People interested in learning more about the health system’s Diabetes Prevention Program can call 1-866-TIDELANDS.

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