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Are you at risk for diabetes?

November 10, 1998

Are you at risk for diabetes? If you are overweight, tired and run-down, or have a family history of diabetes, you could be the one in 50 Americans who has diabetes and doesn't even know it. November is Diabetes Month and a good time to learn about this disease that affects one in 20 Americans.

--cont. from lifestyle--

Diabetes is a disease in which the body fails to properly convert sugars, starches and other foods into the energy needed by the body to function properly. If overlooked or neglected, diabetes can lead to such major health complications as coronary heart disease, kidney disease, cataracts and retina damage (leading to blindness), hypertension, gangrene and damage to the nervous system.

That's the bad news. The good news is that when discovered early enough and controlled with diet, exercise and, in some cases, insulin or oral glucose-lowering agents, diabetics can enjoy health and long lives.

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To check your potential risk for diabetes, take the following simple test:

* Do you experience excessive thirst, frequent urination, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss or blurry vision on a regular basis? If yes, give yourself 20 points for each symptom you experience.

* Are you older than 40? Add 10 points for a yes.

* Are you of Native American, Hispanic or African descent? Add 10 points for a yes answer.

* Does either parent have diabetes? Give yourself 10 points for a yes answer.

* Are you more than 20 percent above desirable weight? Give yourself 20 points for a yes.

* Have you had more than one baby that weighed more than 9 pounds at birth? Give yourself 20 points for a yes.

* Do you have a brother or sister with diabetes? Give yourself 20 points for a yes. Give yourself 30 points if that brother or sister is an identical twin.

Total your points. If you scored less than 50 points, you probably are at low risk for diabetes. However, don't forget about it, especially if you are older than 40, overweight or of African, Hispanic or Native American descent.

If you scored more than 50 points, you may be at high risk for diabetes. In fact, you may have diabetes. See your doctor promptly to determine if you do. It could save your life.

For information and a better understanding of diabetes, visit the following Web sites:

American Diabetes Association - www.diabetes.org

American Dietetic Association - www.eatright.org

Or send e-mail to: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse - ndic@aerie.com

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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