Each year the annual American Diabetes Association Alert Day is the fourth Tuesday in March. What can one day do for you?

Give you a good indication of your risk

With a simple test you can find out what your risk is for developing Type 2 diabetes. There are three types of diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes are generally born with it. Women who are pregnant can develop gestational diabetes, a type that with careful monitoring of food and with childbirth usually resolves. Type 2 diabetes is a disease that develops over time. In 2012, nearly 30 million people had diabetes. Of those, just over eight million went undiagnosed. Taking the risk assessment can help you see if you might be one of the undiagnosed.

Educate you about risk factors

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include the following:

  • Obesity: Obesity is the number one risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes
  • Genetics: If there is a family history of Type 2 diabetes, your chances increase
  • Ethnicity: American Indians and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes
  • Pregnancy and gestational diabetes: If you developed gestational diabetes, you are more at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life
  • Age: Although children can develop Type 2 diabetes, those over 45 have the highest risk

Give you an early heads-up

Pre-diabetes is on the rise in the U.S. In 2010, 79 million people in the U.S. were pre-diabetic. By 2012, that number had risen to 86 million. Knowing the signs and symptoms of prediabetes can help you to make lifestyle changes early, increasing your chances of stopping Type 2 diabetes before it starts. People diagnosed with pre-diabetes may show no signs, but certain indicators may prompt you to ask your doctor for a blood glucose screening.

They are:

  • Darkened skin patches on the body (called acanthosis nigricans)
  • Frequent urination and increased thirst
  • Extreme fatigue

If you are over 45 years old, inactive, or overweight, it may be time to get checked.

Alert you to other serious health conditions

Diabetes often occurs with other serious health conditions, and taking the time to educate yourself and screen for diabetes risk can help identify other potential issues. Common co-morbid conditions can include:

  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar than can lead to dizziness and fainting
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure that increases risk of stroke
  • Kidney disease: Diabetes is the primary cause of kidney failure
  • Blindness: Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eye, causing blurred vision or blindness

Dispel myths about diabetes

There are common myths surrounding diabetes, and American Diabetes Association Alert Day is a great day to dispel them.

Myth: All overweight people will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes.

Truth: While obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, age, ethnicity, and genetics also play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Myth: Sugar cause diabetes.

Truth: While consuming excessive amounts of sugar certainly contributes to high blood glucose levels, sugar consumption alone is not the only factor in diabetes. Type 1 diabetics are generally born with diabetes before they have their first taste of sugar!

Myth: Diabetics can only eat special food marked for diabetes. This includes only artificially-sweetened snacks.

Truth: Diabetics needn’t shop only for prepackaged foods labeled “diabetic.” In fact, the best diets for diabetes include plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats from olive oil, salmon, and avocado. Diets that include inflammation-fighting foods like berries and leafy greens are also recommended. As for artificial sweeteners, there is conflicting evidence on the dangers of these. If your body is craving something sweet, a better bet is a small piece of dark chocolate (70% cocoa) or a grilled peach or banana.

There are plenty of other myths surrounding diabetes, and today is a good day to get all the facts.

Take action

So you have taken the test. Even if you find you are at low risk, today is a great day to support those in your community and take further action to help raise awareness about diabetes. Here are some other great ways to take action.

Share the test: Even if you don’t have a family history, you may have family members or friends who are at risk because of lifestyle choices or ethnicity. Download the Type 2 diabetes risk test and share it, or send them the link. Five minutes can save their life.

Step Out: Participate in a walk to stop diabetes, either in person in one of the 95 cities that sponsor walks or online. Form a team with coworkers or join a national team. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but lacing up your shoes, fundraising, and taking a walk can help save lives.

Join an online community: If you are newly diagnosed, the parent of a diabetic child, or a friend of someone with diabetes, an online community is a great place to find support and information. These are available 24 hours a day and can be an invaluable source of support. Share them with someone you love!

While you are online, take it to social media: Tweet your support for American Diabetes Association Alert Day using the hashtag #DiabetesAlert, and follow them on Twitter at @AmDiabetesAssn. Post awareness-building tweets like the following on Twitter:

And Facebook:

  • Did you know it’s American Diabetes Association Alert Day? Learn your risk for type 2 diabetes: Take the Diabetes Risk Test at http://diabetes.org/takethetest. Take it. Share it. Step Out.
  • Today is American Diabetes Association Alert Day, time to learn your risk for type 2 diabetes. More than a quarter of people with diabetes—8 million—don’t know they have it. Take the Diabetes Risk Test now at http://diabetes.org/takethetest. Take it. Share it. Step Out.

American Diabetes Association Alert Day is the one day a year to spread awareness and take a moment to assess our own risk for this disease. With just a few moments, you could potentially save your life (or the life of someone you know). How will you spend this day?

Image courtesy of American Diabetes Association

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