March 23rd is Diabetes Alert Day. It’s a one day “wake-up” call, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), for Americans to see if they have type 2 diabetes or are at risk.
Almost 24 million Americans have diabetes, (9 out of 10 have type 2), and almost six million of them don’t know they have it. Plus, those numbers are rapidly rising. To find out if you’re at risk, or may already have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, take the Diabetes Risk Test. You can take it right now and I encourage you to do so.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include belonging to a high-risk group such as African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American, being obese, being sedentary, or genetics – it runs in your family.
Thirty-eight years ago, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes shares many of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes: thirst, peeing a lot, hunger, fatigue, and blurry vision. Risk factors, however, are quite different. They include viral infection, environmental triggers, drinking cow’s milk, as an infant and geography.
Today, of course, I no longer have the symptoms of diabetes. I manage it pretty well with my diet, exercise, and insulin. However, I have something else. What you might call signs of living with diabetes. They seem intricately linked to my daily diabetes tasks: counting carbohydrates at every meal, testing my blood sugar several times a day, trying to make sure it doesn’t go too high or too low, and taking daily injections of insulin.
Many of these, like the common symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, are shared by both types, particularly if you use insulin. So, I’m thinking you might just want to familiarize yourself with these too.
Daily signs of my diabetes:
1. I find myself yelling, “How many carbs are in that pancake? You don’t know?!” My day is filled with stuff ordinary people never think about.
2. Checking my pockets every time I leave the house to see if I have fast-acting sugar with me to ward off low blood sugar.
3. Finding myself sweating profusely while no one around me seems bothered by the heat. Oops, too late to ward off low blood sugar.
4. Lying in bed utterly exhausted about to fall asleep when a thought creeps through my mind, “Gotta get up and stick a needle in my finger to test my blood sugar.”
5. Hmmm, that’s a cute designer diabetes accessory. It would carry all my syringes, vials, test strips. God, did I really say that?
6. Wiping blood off my counter, my cupboard, my shirt, after testing, with absolutely no abhorrence, hesitation, or dismay.
7. “When’s dinner? When? You sure? Really? Ten minutes, you’re sure?”
8. I planned to skip my morning power walk due to rain. One hour later the sun is out. Should I walk? Shouldn’t I? Now I’ll have to eat something if I walk to avoid low blood sugar! Damn! Should I walk? Shouldn’t I?
9. Seeing five different doctors every year even when I’m feeling fine, including an endocrinologist, podiatrist, ophthalmologist, diabetes educator, dietitian.
10. My jewelry has emergency contact information on it.
11. Being thrilled that my health care insurer has merged with a durable medical supply company so I get all the test strips I want. Oh goodie!
12. I just tested my blood sugar and I just forgot the number! Alzheimer’s? Who cares, now I have to do it again!!! Geez!
13. Glucerna just made a cereal for diabetics – a product just for us. Hmmm…I don’t really want to notice there’s an “us.”
Get tested. Take the Diabetes Risk Test and get a blood test used to diagnose diabetes from your doctor if you meet the risk criteria. If you have diabetes and don’t know it, you need to be on a treatment plan to take care of your health. If you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes, losing some weight and moving more, may prevent or delay it. Then you may be lucky enough never to experience what’s on my list.
While we can’t yet prevent type 1 diabetes, get screened if it’s in your family. Being on the alert and participating in a clinical trial if you’re at risk may help.
Originally published in The Huffington Post