How’s your blood sugar? About one in five Americans with diabetes has it, and doesn’t know it.
Inspired by this week’s Diabetes Alert Day, a Maryland doctor wants people to get tested so they can take action if needed, and a local woman wants to inspire others by sharing her transformative journey.
More than one in three Americans has prediabetes — which is higher-than-normal blood sugar.
“What’s scary about that is, actually, of those with prediabetes, almost 84% don’t even know that they have it,” said Dr. Eva Dicocco, a Kaiser Permanente family physician in Woodlawn, Maryland.
Describing it as a ticking time bomb, Dicocco said it’s critical for people to be aware of undiagnosed prediabetes before it’s too late.
“If you go from prediabetes to diabetes, then you can have all the unfortunate complications that come with diabetes that can affect your heart, your kidneys, your vision, your nerves, pretty much the whole body, unfortunately,” she said.
A routine checkup helped put Cheryl Lampkin, 62, of Germantown, Maryland, on a path toward better health.
“I went to my annual physical and my doctor did my lab work, and, oh, all kinds of bells went off,” Lampkin said. “She wanted me to get on medicine for high cholesterol, and I was borderline diabetic and she wanted me to get on medication for that … I just did not want to be on any type of medication.”
Lampkin said the findings were a rude awakening. She joined Kaiser Permanente’s diabetes prevention program in June 2020 and has since lost about 37 pounds. Within three months, the issues initially triggering alarms were easing.
“Six months in, I completely reversed all of the negative labs that I had and continued to lose weight,” Lampkin said.
Lampkin describes the yearlong program as a lifestyle change she continues to embrace even now.
“At the beginning, it wasn’t that hard because I just did not want to be on any type of medication. But once I got started, I had actually completely forgotten about the whole reason why I was doing it, and it was just making me feel good and I was achieving goals,” Lampkin said.
Now, she can’t imagine not waking up early before work to begin her day with exercise. Mentally she feels more relaxed and calm.
“Part of the program that I established for myself was not only exercise, but to ensure that I do some yoga, and some stretching, and have some time to just mellow out and not think about what’s going on in the world,” she said.
Lampkin’s advice for people looking to make changes is to start small with whatever makes them comfortable.
“If I can do it at 60, anybody can do it. I really did not think that I would be able to make any major changes,” she said.
Dicocco’s tips to help tackle prediabetes include working on healthy eating habits, eating whole foods, fruits, lots of vegetables, and trying to avoid processed foods that are high in additives and sugars.
“That can really help bring your weight down,” she said. “Exercise is the second biggest key with that.”
“We recommend about 150 minutes each week of moderate or heavier physical activity, quitting smoking or not starting smoking, making sure you’re on top of your other health conditions such as high blood pressure, or high cholesterol and limiting your alcohol intake,” Dicocco advised.
You can take a diabetes risk test on the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidneys Diseases website.