This year, the ADA’s Alert Day falls on March 27th. ADA describes Alert Day as a one-day “wake-up call” to bring attention to the need for early diagnosis. You can visit the ADA website and take an online test to get a sense of your risk of developing diabetes.
Why is screening important? Of the roughly 26 million Americans with diabetes, about 7 million do not know that they have the disease. The longer that their disease goes undetected and unmanaged, the more likely becomes the development of serious complications of the disease, such as blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, and the leading non-injury cause of amputations.
I heard a tragic story on the radio last week, about a man age 53 living in a nursing home and on renal dialysis. It was no surprise to hear that he had diabetes. He may well have been one of the many patients who have been diagnosed in the emergency room. The cost to this individual — and to society as a whole — of the absence of early detection and treatment will be high.
ADA is launching an updated version of its risk test for Alert Day 2012; the new test goes live on March 27th. The new test better recognizes the impact of being overweight. The optimal BMI to avoid diabetes is about 22. Many studies, including at least one published in an ADA journal1, have shown a steep rise in risk in both men and women with increasing BMI. The same article showed that risk of premature death from diabetes was strongly influenced by excess body weight. It’s important that people know that they can prevent or better manage type 2 diabetes through modest improvements in body weight and physical activity.
A study sponsored by Nutrisystem was recently presented at the annual conference of the Obesity Society, the leading research organization for the study of obesity and its health consequences. The subjects all had type 2 diabetes and most were taking multiple medications for the condition, plus additional drugs for other obesity-related risks such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The treatment group followed the Nutrisystem D program for 6 months. These subjects experienced significant improvements in weight, BMI, waist circumference, control of blood glucose as measured by hemoglobin A1c, total plasma cholesterol, and blood pressure. While all these measures were improving, their personal physicians were reducing their prescriptions for diabetes medications. Losing weight and eating a better diet reduced the need for diabetes drugs in about 30% of these subjects. Weight loss truly matters for diabetes, and it can be done.
So take the risk test2, get screened, and act on what you learn. Your genes may have put you at risk of diabetes, and your current lifestyle may be a contributing factor, but you have the power to take charge of your health.