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Are You at Risk for Diabetes? Learn How to Prevent Complications at Upcoming Seminar

April 07, 2010

Are you at risk for diabetes? It’s important to know because there are steps you can take to slow the progression and prevent some of the serious health risks associated with the chronic disease.

"The sooner you know, the sooner you can do something about it," said Vida Reed, RN, a certified diabetes educator and coordinator of the Diabetes Program at Washington Hospital. "Early diagnosis is critical to delaying the onset of disease and reducing complications."

Reed will present an upcoming seminar titled, "Are You at Risk for Diabetes? Knowing the Signs" from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13. The seminar will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register online, please visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

Reed will provide an overview of diabetes and how it affects the body. Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t properly produce or use insulin, which helps to turn food into energy.

When the food you eat is digested, it is broken down into glucose, which the cells in your body use for fuel. Normally, the body adjusts the amount of insulin based on the level of glucose. But if you have diabetes, this process doesn’t work properly and your glucose or blood sugar levels can become too high.

"Diabetes is on the rise," Reed said. "Nearly 24 million adults and children in the United States have the disease and another 57 million are pre-diabetic. You need to know if you are pre-diabetic so you can make changes that will prevent or delay the progression to diabetes."

Pre-diabetes means the cells in your body are becoming resistant to insulin, she explained. Blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes.

Reed will talk about the risk factors for diabetes, which include being over age 40, having high blood pressure, being overweight and inactive, and a having a family history of the disease. Symptoms include frequent urination, intense thirst, extreme hunger, fatigue, irritability and unexplained weight loss, she said.

Don’t Wait for Symptoms

"If you are in the high-risk category and experience any of these symptoms, you need to see your doctor right away," she said. "The key message I want to get across is that if you are at risk for diabetes, don’t wait until you have symptoms. Take action now to avoid serious complications."

Reed will explain some of the complications associated with diabetes, including heart disease, stroke, eye problems, blindness, kidney damage, nerve damage, infections, gum disease, and problems during pregnancy. The nerve and vessel damage caused by diabetes can even lead to amputation, she said.

"So many of these problems can be prevented if you get early treatment and make the necessary lifestyle changes," Reed said.

If you are at risk for diabetes, it’s important to get moving – literally. Increasing physical activity and losing weight are important steps toward reducing your risk, according to Reed. Exercise can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. You should try to do some type of physical activity like walking, biking or swimming at least four days a week, she said.

Reed will also talk about diet. Staying on top of your carbohydrate intake, reducing portion sizes, and eating more fruits and vegetables can help get the pounds off and keep blood sugar levels under control.

"You really need to know your risk so you can be proactive," she said. "Having pre-diabetes or diabetes is serious, but with knowledge, a little optimism and determination, you can manage diabetes and live a full and healthy life. Participants will take a diabetes risk test so they know where they stand."

You can access the diabetes risk test online and learn about other diabetes programs at Washington Hospital at www.whhs.com/diabetes.

Free Monthly Diabetes Education Classes
Learning more about diabetes is where Diabetes Matters, a free class at Washington Hospital, comes in. The monthly class offers both education and support to those with diabetes. The class offers a different topic featuring expert speakers, as well as a support group specifically for those diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes Matters takes place the first Thursday of each month in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West building, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue. The lecture portion of the class is held from 7 to 8 p.m. and the support group takes place immediately after from 8 to 9 p.m. Call (510) 745-6556 or visit www.whhs.com/diabetes for more information.