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On Diabetes Alert Day, Are you at Risk?

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 3.49.12 PMBY JACQUI D. SINARLE

Think diabetes doesn’t affect you, just because you haven’t been diagnosed with it? Think again.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Stanislaus County, the underlying cause of 3.1 percent of deaths in the county. And in 2012 an estimated 29.1 million Americans (9.3 percent of the population) had diabetes, with 8.1 million of those cases undiagnosed.

To reduce your chance of suffering the serious health complications of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association encourages everyone to observe Diabetes Alert Day on March 24 and take the Diabetes Risk Test.

“Diabetes is a major cause of death, a major cause of early death, a major cause of hospitalization, and it likely contributes to disability and poor quality of life for many local residents,” said Stanislaus County Health Services Agency epidemiologist Dr. Sharon Hutchins. “Diabetes also likely decreases worker productivity due to absenteeism and disability, which has an economic impact. In addition, the care for individuals with diabetes is often expensive, and that cost is borne by individuals, employers, and the society at large.”

Stanislaus County has a larger percentage of adults diagnosed with diabetes than the rest of the state. And that percentage may be larger than we know – the shortage of healthcare providers in the area means thousands of cases of diabetes go undiagnosed. That healthcare shortage also causes issues in treating and managing diabetes, leading to Stanislaus County’s high rate of hospitalization for diabetes complications.

Hutchins notes that the number of Stanislaus County residents who are developing diabetes is increasing.

“This is likely due to poor diets and lack of physical activity. It is not easy for people to eat in a healthy manner and get sufficient exercise,” Hutchins said.

Stanislaus County’s continued diabetes epidemic is linked, in large part, to the county’s dubious distinction as the second most obese county in California.

“The human-made environment plays a large role,” Hutchins said. “In addition, people are busy and find it difficult to prepare healthy meals at home and we have high rates of fast food consumption.”

Fortunately, local residents can evaluate their risk of developing diabetes and take steps to reduce that risk.

First, take the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Risk Test by visiting www.diabetes. org and clicking “Are You At Risk?” The test asks users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. While Alert Day is a one-day event, the test is available year-around.

Next, talk to your health care provider about your risk of diabetes and how you can reduce it by losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising and eating right.

“The most important things to do are to eat a balanced and healthy diet and get sufficient physical activity,” says Elaine Emery, RD, public health nutritionist. “If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it’s also important to get regular health care visits and foot exams, actively control your blood sugar levels and risk factors, and practice healthy lifestyle choices.”

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