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November is national diabetes awareness month – are you at risk?


Seventy-nine million Americans have pre-diabetes and many have no symptoms. Diabetes is a condition that affects many. You probably know someone with diabetes. Even if you are at risk, with small changes, you may be able to lower your chances of developing diabetes. Let’s talk about how to prevent even pre-diabetes.


What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but it's not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes.

There's good news, though. With healthy lifestyle changes such as eating healthy foods, including physical activity in your daily routine, and maintaining a healthy weight, you may be able to bring your blood sugar level back to normal.

How is pre-diabetes diagnosed?

To determine if you have pre-diabetes, your doctor can perform one of three different blood tests – the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) or the Hemoglobin A1C (or average blood sugar) test.

How do I know if I am at risk?

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. People who are overweight and physically inactive are at greater risk for developing pre-diabetes.

Race and family history can play a factor into likelihood of developing pre-diabetes. If a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes, your risk is greater, and if you are African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander, you are more likely to develop pre-diabetes. 

Only some people experience warning signs or symptoms of diabetes, and most wouldn’t experience any actual symptoms for pre-diabetes—that's why it's important to know the general risk factors. Don't assume that a "lack of symptoms" means that everything is okay.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be at risk for diabetes and should see your health care provider as soon as possible.

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Fatigue
  • Unusual weight gain or loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Slow-healing sores or cuts
  • Bleeding and sore gums

Take action now to lower your risk.

Talk to your doctor today if you think you may be at risk for pre-diabetes. Studies have shown that people with pre-diabetes who achieve as little as 7 percent weight loss through healthy eating and increased physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.  Talk to your health care provider about how to create a balanced diet.

Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less fatty foods.

Talk to your doctor about ways to increase your physical activity. Strive to be active for 30 minutes at least four days per week.

Remember, you're not alone. There are many diabetes prevention classes and support groups that you can join. If you are a Highmark member, we will work with you and your health care provider to help keep you on the right track to managing your diabetes. With the right tools, resources and support, you can be in control of your diabetes. Log in to the member website to learn more about diabetes prevention, www.highmarkbcbs.com. You can also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to learn more – http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes.


Dr. Rhonda Johnson is the medical director of health equity and quality services at Highmark Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. She leads Highmark’s efforts to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities among Highmark members through clinical interventions and improvements in health literacy, language access and health-plan cultural competency.



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