Free diabetes screenings set

Published 9:48 pm Saturday, March 23, 2013

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories leading up to the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure in Suffolk on April 20.

Diabetes Alert Day is coming up next week, and the American Diabetes Association is urging everyone to find out if they are at risk or have already developed the disease.

Type 2 diabetes affects nearly 175,000 people in Hampton Roads, including about 53,000 who do not even know they have it. An additional one in three American adults has pre-diabetes.

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Diabetes Alert Day, a project of the American Diabetes Association, is Tuesday. A free screening will be held in Suffolk for folks to find out their risk.

“Part of our mission at the American Diabetes Association is for people to know their risk for Type 2 diabetes,” said Robin Kantor, a manager at the organization’s South Hampton Roads chapter. “A lot of people wait until they have a complication — blurry vision, neuropathy in their feet — and that brings them to the doctor. At that point they already have a complication that isn’t reversible.”

Type 2 diabetes, the more common form of the disease, is caused when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps the body process sugar, or when the cells ignore the insulin. It differs from Type 1, which is caused when the pancreas stops producing insulin completely.

It is important for people to know their numbers to determine their risk factors for diabetes, Kantor said. High blood pressure, cholesterol and weight contribute to diabetes. Risk increases with age and lack of physical activity. Race is also a factor, with any race other than white being at increased risk. Men are at higher risk than women, but women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at higher risk than those who were not. One of the best predictors of risk is family history, so people should know whether a biological parent or sibling has been diagnosed with diabetes.

Fortunately, some risk factors can be reversed.

“Studies have shown that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by losing just seven percent of body weight (such as 15 pounds if you weigh 200) through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating,” said Dr. Joseph Aloi, clinical director at Eastern Virginia Medical School’s Strelitz Diabetes Center.

Tuesday’s free screening — from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Suffolk Family YMCA, 2769 Godwin Blvd. — will test cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as A1C and blood glucose, which are indicators of whether a person is diabetic or pre-diabetic. Those tests will be provided by Eastern Virginia Medical School, while Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System will provide body mass index tests, along with information on diabetes care.

The American Diabetes Association will hand out information on healthy living, along with resources available through the association.

Those unable to make the screening should at least log on to

risktest to take the free assessment and discuss the results with their doctor.

“If you score a five or higher, it lets you know it’s time to go to the doctor and get your A1C checked,” Kantor said.

“We really want people to take advantage of these free resources,” she added.

Folks who don’t have health insurance shouldn’t be afraid to find out about their diabetes status, Kantor added.

“If you don’t have the resources, there’s definitely ways for people to get the care you need,” she said.