[This piece was written by Jill Abelseth, M.D., F.A.C.E., Director of Capital Region Diabetes and Endocrine Care, St. Peter’s Health Partners Medical Associates]
We are facing an epidemic, more frightening than Ebola and more widespread than heart disease: diabetes. Currently, 29.1 million Americans (9.3 percent of the population) have been diagnosed with the disease.
Diabetes is associated with blindness, kidney failure and death. It is predicted that by 2050, one in three Americans will have diabetes and there may not be enough dialysis beds for those who need them.
The good news is we may be able to prevent diabetes if it can be recognized early. Prior to the development of diabetes, there is a period of up to 10 years, or longer, when patients have insulin resistance and develop a condition called prediabetes. It can be diagnosed with an A1C (average blood glucose), a simple, non-fasting blood test that can be ordered by your doctor.
The American Diabetes Association recommends this test be done routinely for patients not yet diagnosed with diabetes, but who are at risk, so appropriate intervention can be undertaken to prevent the progression to diabetes. It is an opportunity for early diagnosis and studies show these interventions work.
How do you know whether you should be screened for prediabetes? Everyone who is 45 years or older should have an A1C as part of his or her routine blood work at the yearly physical exam. If your A1C (which reflects an average blood sugar over three months) comes back normal, it should be rechecked every two to three years. A diagnosis of prediabetes means the blood glucose reading is between 5.7 and 6.4 percent. A diagnosis of diabetes is made if it is greater or equal to 6.5 percent.
You should be screened sooner if you have the following risks: a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25, a sedentary lifestyle, a first-degree relative with diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, a history of having diabetes during pregnancy, and/or had a baby who weighed more than nine pounds. Even children should be screened if they are overweight. (Imagine being able to prevent diabetes in your children!)
If you have a high A1C, don’t panic. Your doctor may suggest you see a dietitian or ask you to enroll in a diabetes prevention program, a nationwide initiative that has been effective in slowing the progression of the diabetes epidemic.
Capital Region Diabetes and Endocrine Care, a joint service of St. Peter’s Health Partners and Ellis Medicine, offers such a program at no charge. Talk to your primary care physician to see if it’s right for you and register for the next round of classes in September at 888-941-4009.
Together we can stop this epidemic!