A new national survey conducted by the American Diabetes Association reveals that 7 out of 10 Americans are not aware of their blood glucose (sugar) level, critical information for determining the presence of diabetes or pre-diabetes. This awareness level is considered extremely low, especially as it relates to individuals' knowledge of blood pressure and cholesterol.
Today, in communities across the country, the American Diabetes Association is "sounding the Alert" to reach the more than 5 million who have diabetes, but do not know it, about the risks and dangers of diabetes as part of its 16th annual Diabetes Alert Day. This is a one-day "wake-up" call to inform the American public about the seriousness of diabetes, particularly when diabetes is left undiagnosed or untreated. "More than 18 million Americans have diabetes, and almost one third of them do not even know that they have it," said Carole Mensing, RN, MA, CDE, President, Health Care and Education of the American Diabetes Association. "This research gives us a clear sense of where awareness is lacking and emphasizes that individuals must begin to talk with their doctors about their risk for diabetes.
Early detection, treatment and education are crucial to prevent the devastating and potentially life-threatening complications of this disease such as heart disease, stroke, eye damage, nerve damage that can lead to amputations, and kidney disease." American Diabetes "Alert" Day complements the year-round efforts of HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's community-based program to identify people with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.
The Secretary's Diabetes Detection Initiative: Finding the Undiagnosed (DDI) seeks to increase blood testing for individuals who are at high risk for diabetes and to increase diagnosis for those with unrecognized diabetes. "We are committed in the fight against diabetes," said Secretary Thompson. "Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and cost the nation $132 billion in 2002. Through programs like the Diabetes Detection Initiative, we're working at the community level to find Americans who have type 2 diabetes but do not know it." To help people better recognize their own risk for type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association and the DDI provide a simple pencil and paper diabetes risk test.
Among the primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes are being overweight, sedentary, over the age of 45 and having a family history of diabetes. African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are at an increased risk, as are women with a history of gestational diabetes or those who have had babies weighing more than nine pounds at birth. While people with diabetes can exhibit noticeable symptoms, such as frequent urination, blurred vision and excessive thirst, most people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes do not show these overt warning signs at the time that they develop the disease.
Among the most significant research findings:
- Only one third of those surveyed (29.9%) are aware of their blood glucose value, while twice as many (58.8%) know their blood pressure number.
- In comparing ethnic groups, African Americans, who are at increased risk for developing diabetes, are the least likely to know their blood glucose number with an awareness level of less than one quarter (23%) of those surveyed.
- Women (32.5%) are more likely than men (27.1%) to know their blood glucose value.
Other findings indicate that most Americans are not talking with their physicians about blood glucose. While less than one-third of respondents (31.1%) reported questioning their doctor about blood glucose, blood pressure was questioned by 55% of those surveyed, and 46% of respondents were asking about cholesterol. Unless survey participants have had some "experience" with diabetes (e.g., they had been tested or diagnosed), they do not ask their doctor about their blood glucose number.
This year, to further support the goals of Diabetes Alert Day, one of ADA's sponsors, Rite Aid pharmacies, has agreed to distribute the diabetes risk test to customers visiting any of their 3,400 stores on March 23, Diabetes Alert Day. All Rite Aid pharmacies will continue to have the test available for patients to further the Alert Day cause and to stress the importance of diabetes awareness every day. Rite Aid also sponsors a page on the ADA's Web site called "Ask the Pharmacist." This feature allows visitors to submit questions about diabetes management and receive guidance from a Rite Aid pharmacist.