‘A silent killer in many ways’; health department offers free screening for diabetes, prediabetes

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — November is National Diabetes Month and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department is offering screenings and education to help prevent diabetes by increasing awareness of prediabetes.

The health department estimates that 55,000 adults in southwest Utah have prediabetes and that 50,000 of these adults are unaware of their condition.

We are concerned,” said Jeff Smith, the department’s diabetes program development manager. “I think most health care providers are concerned; it’s on the rise.

The report comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimation that about 90 percent of the 1 in 3 adults with prediabetes don’t know that they have it.  

Throughout November, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department is offering free A1C testing to screen for both diabetes and prediabetes at each of its five county offices. The test is done with a finger prick, and the results are available within a few minutes.

Those who qualify for the screening must a at least 18 years of age and a resident of Washington, Iron, Kane, Garfield or Beaver counties. No appointment is needed to be tested (see locations and schedule of testing times at the end of this report)

Testing for prediabetes is recommended on a yearly basis for anyone over 25 years old. Most people don’t know they’re prediabetic because there are no symptoms of prediabetes, said Tyler Hansen, Intermountain Healthcare family practitioner.

It’s really a silent killer in many ways,” he said.

Prediabetes occurs when the cells in a person’s body don’t respond normally to insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas that lets blood sugar into cells to use for energy, according to the CDC. The issue arises when the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep up with the amount of sugar in the body and the person’s blood sugar rises.

Prediabetes is usually accompanied by high blood pressure, low levels of high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Left untreated, prediabetes eventually becomes Type 2 diabetes which has many health consequences of its own and can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, kidney disease, strokes, blindness and even death.

“In my opinion, diabetes is one of those illnesses that more than any of the others just affects the whole body,” Hansen said. “There really is not a system of our body … that it doesn’t impact, and injure or hurt.”

Diabetes and prediabetes are estimated to cost Utah $1.7 billion every year, according to the American Diabetes Association. Medical expenses for people with diabetes are approximately 2.3 times higher than those without.

While anyone can develop prediabetes, there are certain factors that put a person at greater risk. Anything that can cause a person’s body to struggle to produce enough insulin puts increases their chance of becoming prediabetic.

According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors include being overweight, having a waist size of over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, and poor diet, such as eating too much red or processed meat and sugary drinks or foods. Those with sleep apnea are also at risk. The less active a person is the higher their risk for prediabetes.

Those over 45 years of age are at greater risk, as well as those with a family history of Type 2 diabetes. For unknown reasons, certain races including African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have an increased risk of developing prediabetes and diabetes.

Women who developed gestational diabetes while pregnant puts both the mother and the child at risk for prediabetes, as well as women who give birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are also susceptible.

Read more: Overcoming PCOS, the disease 5 million women have but don’t know it

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has a quiz to help determine a person’s risk of prediabetes. However, anyone who believes they may be at risk should see a health care provider for evaluation, Smith said.

Many people who find out they have prediabetes decide not to worry about it since they are not yet diabetic. However, taking steps to reduce the risk of diabetes is essential, otherwise the risk of becoming diabetic is high, Hansen said. Because of that, he typically chooses to refer to it as “early diabetes” instead.

Prediabetes can be managed by eating a diet similar to a Mediterranean diet, which is high in vegetables and fruits with some protein and carbohydrates. The important thing is to eat a balanced diet and to exercise three to five days per week for 30 minutes or more. Exercise allows the body to naturally release the hormones and chemicals it needs to burn sugar for energy.

“The reason why I think it’s great to put an extra emphasis on identifying, understanding and detecting prediabetes is so that you can make yourself aware and then you can put measures into place to stop yourself from climbing into that diabetes realm,” Hansen said. “By doing that you’re going to add years to your life and you’re going to add countless amount of qualities to it as well.”

Intermountain Healthcare offers Prediabetes 101 classes, taught by certified diabetes educators, at clinics throughout Southern Utah.

Southwest Utah Public Health Department testing:

  • St. George | Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. | 620 S. 400 East.
  • Cedar City | Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.| 260 E. DL Sargent Drive.
  • Kanab | Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. | 445 N. Main.
  • Beaver | Tuesday-Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed noon to 1 p.m. | 75 W. 1175 North.
  • Panguitch | Monday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed noon to 1 p.m. | 601 E. Center.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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