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Diabetes Awareness and Preventive Action Can Save Your Life

posted Nov 20, 2018, 1:07 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT   [ updated Nov 20, 2018, 1:17 PM ]
By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, Experienced Diabetes Educator

Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes, which is the general feeling I get from the many groups to whom I present on a regular basis.  In fact, a participant in one of my talks said, “I don’t know anyone who as has an A1c below 5.7, and couldn’t this just be normal for everyone?”  The fact is, an A1c at 5.7 and above does indicate prediabetes.  It should not be considered the new normal because of the damage it causes within the body and the risk for developing diabetes if no action is taken to prevent it.    Hence, the reason to raise awareness about diabetes prevention. 

How common is diabetes? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates about 30.3 million people in the U.S. over the age of 18 have diabetes, and of that number, 7.2 million are not diagnosed.   Additionally, 84 million people have prediabetes, a condition that can develop into diabetes if no action is taken to adjust lifestyle and diet for the better.  Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2015.

What is Diabetes? Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot effectively use its blood sugar due to the hormone insulin.  Insulin’s role is to transport blood sugar from the bloodstream to all the cells in our body for fuel.   In people with diabetes, sugar (in the form of glucose) remains in the blood stream.   The lack of fuel in our cells and accumulation of glucose damages a person’s vital tissues and organs, and therefore leads to many of the medical complications we see in people with diabetes.  The table below describes the different types of diabetes and the labs that are used to screen for each one.

Diabetes and Diabetes Related Conditions


Blood Sugar Screening2

A1c (%)

Type 1

Very little insulin to no insulin is available.  Occurs at any age and is not directly related to diet and lifestyle.  It is related to an auto-immune condition which destroys the cells that make insulin.   Can be diagnosed at any age.

Fasting Blood Sugar:  126 mg/dl and greater

6.5% and greater

Type 2

Insulin is being produced but is not effective in helping blood sugar enter the cells for energy.  This is known as “insulin resistance.” Type 2 is tied to diet and lifestyle. Losing 7% of weight can help the body use its own insulin effectively. 

Fasting Blood Sugar: 126 mg/dl and greater

6.5% and greater


A temporary condition diagnosed around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. 3   This condition can occur due to a drastic fluctuation of hormones, high pre-pregnancy weight, and having risk factors for diabetes.   Early treatment can save the life of the mother and baby. 

1-hour glucose tolerance test.  At least two readings above normal.



Fasting blood sugars are elevated above normal but are not at a level of diabetes.  Related to diet and lifestyle.  Early detection and action can prevent diabetes and protect damage within the body.

Fasting Blood Sugar: 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl

5.7% to 6.4%

Diabetes Symptoms: Consistently high and low blood sugar levels can lead to symptoms of fatigue which we may attribute to hectic daily living.   However, if you have persistent symptoms along with the risk factors listed below, you should consider getting screened for prediabetes and diabetes.   Consistently high and low blood sugar levels can damage many of the body’s vital organs and tissues.

Excessive hunger

Frequent urination

Unintentional weight-loss


Blurry vision


Excessive sleepiness

Dry, itchy skin or slow wound healing

Urinary tract infections

What are Complications of Diabetes? If cells of the body are consistently deprived of fuel, and blood sugar levels in the bloodstream stay elevated, this can lead to many of the conditions we see with diabetes: 

Who is at Risk?

Factors You Can’t Control

Factors You can Control

v  Age (Over 45)

v  Genetics

v  Family history (parent or siblings)

v  Ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American)

v  Diagnosed with Gestational diabetes





v  High Blood Pressure (140/90)

v  Inactive most days of the week

v  Unhealthy eating and                          drinking habits

v  BMI over 25

v  Waist Circumference

-  Men (more than 40 inches)

-  Women (more than 35 inches)

v  Prediabetes




What Can You Do?

If Diagnosed with Diabetes:

Taking the appropriate action can help people with diabetes live longer and healthier lives.  Following the steps below will help you prevent diabetes-related complications.

1.  Work with a diabetes specialist team including an endocrinologist, registered dietitian nutritionist, and nurse.

2.  Work with Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for a personalized meal plan that best works with your medication.

3.  Exercise 30 minutes every day.

4.  Take medicines as prescribed to effectively achieve healthy blood sugar levels. 

5.  Practice mindfulness every day to help manage stress and promote sleep.

6.  Check out our next ILC Healthy Living blog on healthy meals to prevent diabetes.


To Prevent Diabetes:  Taking these steps may prevent diabetes. 

        1.  Get screened for prediabetes and diabetes.  Look at your fasting blood glucose or A1c numbers and talk to your doctor.

        2.  Physical Activity: Get 30 minutes a day of physical activity, which makes the body more sensitive to use its own insulin.    

        3.   Meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in diabetes to help provide you with healthy meal planning that fits in your schedule.     

        4.  Check out our next ILC Healthy Living blog on healthy meals to prevent diabetes.


For more questions on this article, please contact the author at


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2017.

2. American Diabetes Association Guidelines for Diagnosis of Diabetes. . Download 11/15/2018.

3. Mayo Clinic. Diagnosis of