Diabetes Alert Day encouraging Americans to screen for the disease

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 7:53 AM MDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:24 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - More than 37 million Americans (1 in 10) have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unfortunately, 1 in 5 Americans don’t know they have the disease.

Diabetes Alert Day is a day sponsored by the American Diabetes Association and used as a call for action, encouraging Americans to get screened.

“It’s really important to screen for diabetes and talk with your health team to see if you might be at risk, so we can catch that disease process earlier,” explained Emily Bankhead, a family nurse practitioner (FNP) at UCHealth’s Endocrinology Clinic. “The earlier we diagnose diabetes, the earlier we can put it into remission and get people on the right therapies.”

Diabetes affects how your body turns food into energy.

“The simplest way that I know how to describe diabetes is either when your body doesn’t make any insulin at all, or it makes some insulin but the insulin doesn’t work properly,” explained Bankhead.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in teens and young adults and requires them to take insulin every day to survive

With Type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin, but not well enough to regulate blood sugar levels.

“Type 2 diabetes is a lot more common. It has a lot of environmental and genetic factors. So, genetic factors would be a family history of diabetes, certain racial and ethnic groups are at higher risk,” said Bankhead, adding obesity is another complex contributor to Type 2 diabetes. “What we know about obesity, and we’re learning more and more about it as a medical community, is that obesity is not necessarily a lifestyle choice or a lack of will power. It’s a very complex metabolic is that is driven by different regulations in the body, but it is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.”

While symptoms for type 1 can can be severe and develop within weeks or months, symptoms for type 2 can take several years to develop and are oftentimes missed.

“The beginning symptoms and signs of diabetes can be really subtle and so, oftentimes people don’t feel bad until their blood sugars are very out of control or their diabetes has progressed a lot,” explained Bankhead, “The good news about Type 2 diabetes is that if we catch it early, we have really good treatments for that. Lifestyle modification helps, we can use medications whether they are oral or injectable, sometimes we use insulin.”

Left untreated, diabetes can cause other health problems.

“Diabetes is extremely serious,” said Bankhead. “It affects all of the different organs of the body. So, we can have damage to the eyes, to the kidneys, to the nerves, internal nerves as well as in the feet and hands, and diabetes is a leading risk factor for heart disease.”

Screening for diabetes usually start around 45; however, if you are overweight or concerned about your own health, start talking to your doctor much sooner.