News & Events

Diabetes – Are you at risk?

Penny Fischer, R.N.

The numbers are in. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet which shows:

· Diabetes affects 25.8 million people or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population

· Of that number, 7 million people have the disease but don’t know or are undiagnosed. 

· It is estimated that 79 million American adults age 20 years or older have pre-diabetes 

What is diabetes?     

Diabetes Mellitus is a condition characterized by higher than normal blood glucose (hyperglycemia) resulting from the body's inability to use blood glucose for energy. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin and therefore blood glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In Type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use insulin correctly.

What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, as well as at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Other names for pre-diabetes are: impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Recent studies indicate that the early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the chance of developing the complications of diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem so harmless.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes:

Frequent urination
Unusual thirst
Extreme hunger
Unusual weight loss
Extreme fatigue and Irritability

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes*:

Any of the Type 1 symptoms
Frequent infections
Blurred vision
Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

*Please note: Often people with Type 2 diabetes do not have any symptoms.

Can diabetes be controlled?

The good news, according to Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic, is “there are four factors that cause 75 percent of chronic diseases and they are all within our control: tobacco use, inactivity, stress, and food choices and portion size."

Diabetes risk factors that you can control include:

· Being overweight, defined as a body mass index greater than 25

· Sedentary lifestyle

· Abnormal cholesterol and blood fats, such as HDL “good” cholesterol lower than 35 mg/dL or a triglyceride level over 250 mg/dL

· High blood pressure greater than 140/90 in adults

· Smoking

Diabetes risk factors that you can’t control:

· Race or ethnicity: Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans and Asians have a higher-than-average risk of developing diabetes

· Family (parent or sibling) history of diabetes

· Age: Being 45 and older increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes. 

Among adults in the U.S., diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness; it is a major cause of heart disease and stroke and is seventh leading cause of death.

The message from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is loud and clear, “Let’s start a chain reaction and STOP DIABETES.” The ADA encourages people to take the Diabetes Risk Test which asks simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risks for pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. The test shows users whether they are at low, moderate or high risk for Type 2 diabetes. Individuals at high risk are encouraged to talk with their healthcare provider.

For more information, call Flagstaff Medical Center’s Diabetes Education Department at 928 773-2249, or visit the American Diabetes Association at

Penny Fischer, R.N., is a certified diabetes educator in FMC’s Diabetes Education Department. Is there a health topic you’d like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o FMC Public Relations, 1200 N. Beaver St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit