POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Health Department is offering free diabetes risk assessments during the month of November as a part of Diabetes Awareness Month, according to Diana Riddle, CFNP, health department administrator/nurse director.
The assessment is a series of questions, with the score denoting if a person might be at a greater risk for having or developing diabetes. Counseling will be provided based on the assessment and may include a referral to a primary care provider. Health department nurses can also perform a simple “finger stick” test if requested.
No appointment is necessary for the assessment. People can stop by the health department, located at 216 Fifth St. in Point Pleasant during regular business hours.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
“The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors, such as obesity and lack of exercise, appear to play roles,” Riddle said.
There are nearly 30 million children and adults in the U.S., or nearly 10 percent of the population, who have diabetes, according to Riddle. Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Every 19 seconds, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed, and recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have the disease by 2050 unless steps are taken to stop it.
Riddle said there are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 results from the body’s failure to produce insulin, the hormone that “unlocks” the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated that five to 10 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have Type 1. These people will require daily injections of insulin.
Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance (a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency. Most Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2. These people can control the disease through diet, exercise or oral medication.
Riddle said diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem harmless. Some of the symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability and blurry vision. Anyone having one or more of these symptoms should see a doctor, according to Riddle. The physician will conduct a complete physical exam, which will include lab tests to determine the glucose (sugar) level. The test is performed after not having anything to eat or drink for several hours. Other tests include taking an amount of glucose and taking a blood test several hours later.
Certain risk factors increase the chances of acquiring diabetes. Riddle said those risk factors include being over 45 years of age, being overweight, having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes, leading a sedentary life and getting very little exercise, and (if you are a woman) having had a baby who weighed over nine pounds at birth.
Riddle stated diabetes nearly doubles the risk for heart attack and for death from heart disease. It is the leading cause of kidney failure and the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age adults. It is also estimated that one in 10 health care dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications.
For more information on diabetes, contact the health department at 304-675-3050.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.