Healthy Focus November 2022

Why More than 1 in 3 of Us Are at Risk—and Don’t Know It

What you don’t know can hurt you: More than 8.5 million adults in the United States have diabetes but aren’t aware of it. If you’re one of them—or if you’re not sure what your risk of diabetes is—then you’re likely not taking the simple steps that can help you prevent or treat the disease. And that means you may be at risk for the many diseases that untreated diabetes can lead to. Even the 37 million adults who have been diagnosed with diabetes may have some common misconceptions about the condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Statistics Report provides data on diabetes and prediabetes. Here are the key facts:

  • 96 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes, or 38% of the population.
  • More than 8 in 10 adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it.
  • 37.3 million Americans—about 1 in 10—have diabetes.
  • In 2019, about 1.4 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed.
  • For people aged 10 to 19 years, new cases of type 2 diabetes increased for all racial and ethnic minority groups, especially Black teens.
  • For adults with diagnosed diabetes:
  • 69% had high blood pressure, and 44% had high cholesterol.
  • 39% had chronic kidney disease, and 12% reported having vision impairment or blindness.
  • 90% were overweight or had obesity.
  • Diabetes was highest among Black and Hispanic/Latino adults, in both men and women.

Hidden Effects

Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels, which occur when the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into energy.

Think of diabetes by comparing it to a glass of orange juice spilled on a kitchen floor: If you have too much sugar coursing through your body because of diabetes, everything will be “sticky”.  Diabetes’ “stickiness” can manifest itself in a number of ways, often in the form of heart problems. For example, atherosclerosis, a chronic disease affecting blood vessels, also tends to occur more often among those with diabetes. People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes, and adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease or stroke as adults without diabetes.

Over time, diabetes can also affect your immune system and your metabolism, and those effects can lead to a variety of other illnesses, including hypertension, gum disease and heart disease. Kidney damage, nervous system problems, complications during pregnancy, amputation and loss of vision are also risks; in fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults. Even pneumonia or influenza occurs more often in diabetics, for whom these illnesses can be more serious.

Risky Business

Although the effects of diabetes can’t be reversed, the risks can be lowered with early diagnosis and treatment. That’s why it’s important to shift your thinking about diabetes from reactive to proactive.

In order to predict someone’s risk for diabetes, physicians start with the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is genetic and runs in families; type 1 generally does not. Having a family history of diabetes doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely get the disease, but it is important to know your numbers to minimize your risk.

The trick is to start early, when diabetes is just a risk, and not after the diagnosis. Although the cause of diabetes is unknown, excess weight and lack of exercise seem to boost the risk of developing both types of the disease, research suggests. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help cut your risk of becoming diabetic, and it can also help manage your blood sugar levels if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.

Free Diabetes Screening on December 7
HCMC’s Chronic Disease Management Program offers free screenings including total lipid panel, blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI  and A1c. If you have a chronic condition, smoke or are overweight, you can join the program for free.

Participants are screened every three months and receive education about their chronic conditions. All patients must be fasting for 8 hours to participate in the screening. Screenings will be done by appointment only to provide social distancing. Masks are required.

The next screening will be held Wednesday, December 7 from 8:00am-5:00pm in HCMC Classrooms 2 & 3.

For more information on these screenings, to make an appointment, or to join our Chronic Disease Management program, call 731-644-8215 or email

Stopping Diabetes in its Tracks

When it comes to preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, two heads—or more—are definitely better than one.

With involved partners and resources to help keep you motivated and coach you on what to do, you’re much more likely to keep type 2 diabetes and its complications at bay, say the experts. In fact, many hospitals offer diabetes education resources for both patients who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes and those who are at high risk and are trying to improve their health; many insurance plans also cover these courses.

Getting Started

More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and 96 million Americans have pre-diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control, so regular doctor visits to monitor your health are essential. Your physician may use a fasting plasma glucose test to determine if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes; a blood glucose level of 99 or lower is considered normal, 100 to 125 may indicate pre-diabetes, and 126 or higher may indicate diabetes.

If you have pre-diabetes, your risk of developing diabetes within the next 10 years is higher, although modest weight loss and moderate physical activity can help reduce the odds. You’re also at higher risk for type 2 diabetes if you are over 45, overweight, inactive, have a family history of diabetes, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, had gestational diabetes, or are a member of certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans and Asians.

Back to School

If you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or are at high risk for developing it, a diabetes education program, like the one offered by HCMC, can help you learn the tools for managing the illness. Family members may be included as well so that they can be part of your coping strategies and lifestyle.

The materials covered in diabetes education cover certain basics about how to best handle your diabetes, including:

Plan what you are going to eat. You know you are going to be hungry tomorrow, so why not plan today? A diabetes education program will help you organize meals so that you don’t end up consuming more calories than you want or need when you try to control your hunger with a fast-food run.

Don’t be a stranger. Most diabetics need to see their provider every three months. Make those appointments worthwhile by getting your lab work done in advance and bringing your blood sugar and blood pressure logs with you.

Check your blood sugar and insulin levels. Your doctor’s office will show you the basics, but diabetes education goes a few steps further, teaching you tricks for understanding what those levels mean and how to manage them. You may be shown how eating smaller meals more often throughout the day, for example, or getting enough sleep can help manage your insulin levels.

Make a disaster plan. Patients do not always have a disaster plan for situations such as getting caught out of town without insulin. Many programs offer advice on how to create a portable diabetes kit, with pharmacy phone numbers and other essentials.

Avoid becoming discouraged. The truth is that diabetes is a progressive disease, and it does worsen over time, even if you do the right things. You may need to add another medication or change medication, and that’s just part of the process. It is not a failure, but just a normal step in preventing complications.

What to Watch For

Although type 2 diabetes doesn’t always cause symptoms, here are some signs that the American Diabetes Association says warrant a visit to the doctor:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst and/or hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling/numbness in the hands or feet

Make an Appointment

Discuss your risks and any of the symptoms above with your healthcare provider. If you need one near you, reach out to Cindy Argo, FNP at Transitions Health at 731-641-2708.

Get Personalized Advice

The Registered Licensed Dietitian Nutritionists at Dietitian Associates are available to provide nutrition counseling at your convenience. Contact us at or at (731) 644-8300.