Suffolk on high alert against diabetes

Published 9:58 pm Saturday, March 24, 2012

There’s an emergency in Suffolk and Western Tidewater, and Tuesday is the day to do something about it.

Tuesday is Diabetes Alert Day, and free diabetes screenings and risk tests are being held in Suffolk. Knowing your risk and taking positive actions can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

“For people who are at risk for type 2, even minor modifications can make a huge difference,” said Deanie Eldridge, executive director for Hampton Roads and Richmond American Diabetes Association.

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One of the association’s biggest fundraisers, the Tour de Cure, is coming to Suffolk next month.

On Tuesday, the association aims to inspire at least a million people to take the diabetes risk test, which asks users simple questions about weight, age, family history and other risk factors.

People who are overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle and are over the age of 45 should consider themselves at risk for the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. In addition, blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Asians and Pacific Islanders are at increased risk, as is anyone with a family history of the disease.

Diagnosis often comes seven to 10 years after the onset of the disease, after disabling and deadly complications have had time to develop. Early detection is critical, according to the diabetes association.

Further, according to the diabetes association, even small changes like losing just 7 percent of body weight through regular physical activity and healthy eating can prevent or delay the disease.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas does not produce any insulin, include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, dramatic weight loss, irritability, weakness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.

Symptoms of type 2, the more common form, include any of the type 1 symptoms, as well as recurring or hard-to-heal skin, gum or bladder infections, drowsiness, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet and itching.

In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin.

On Tuesday, the Eastern Virginia Medical School and Obici Healthcare Foundation will offer free diabetes screenings from 3 to 6 p.m. at East Suffolk Recreation Center, 138 S. Sixth St. The Farm Fresh at 1401 N. Main St. will also offer type 2 risk tests, coupons for diabetes-friendly items and cooking demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To take a risk test online, visit www.diabetes.org.

Learn more about the Hampton Roads Tour de Cure, coming up April 21 at King’s Fork High School, by visiting www.diabetes.org/hamptonroadsvatour.