For what is known, the numbers are staggering.
In statistics revealed last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29.1 million individuals in the United States have diabetes.
That’s 9.3 percent of the country’s population, and it doesn’t consider the estimated 8.1 million – or 27.8 percent – of those who have the disease but don’t yet know it.
The unknown is all the more astonishing considering that an estimated 86 million Americans age 20 or older have a condition where an individual’s blood sugar or glucose level is higher than it should be but not in the diabetes range.
“The key is to first get screened and tested. If you have a family history, you will have increased your risk of developing diabetes and the test is just a simple finger prick from your primary care doctor or health care provider,” said Angela Ginn-Meadow, a certified diabetes educator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology at the school’s midtown campus.
“If a person is diagnosed, it’s okay, it only means that you can do something about it,” Ginn-Meadow said. “People often walk around for 10 years without knowing they have developed diabetes.”
Some of the symptoms include extreme tiredness and sores and wounds that don’t heal well. People who are overweight, over 45, or do not exercise regularly are at higher risk, Ginn-Meadow said. A woman has given birth to a baby over 9 pounds or anyone who has a family history of diabetes should be sure to get tested, she said.
Ginn-Meadow and others at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus is kicking off National Diabetes Awareness Month by sponsoring a 16-week lifestyle change and prevention program designed to help reduce the risk of diabetes.
The program, which advocates that participants take charge of their health, will meet twice weekly for four months and then once a month for six months to help individuals maintain healthy lifestyle changes.
“There have been other programs, but this prevention program was recognized by the CDC, and it’s part of a statewide initiative,” Ginn-Meadow said.
“It really is for people who either have prediabetes or have actually completed a risk assessment that puts an individual at a high risk of having diabetes.”
The start date for the program is still being worked out but will begin either the first or second week in November, Ginn-Meadow said.
During each session, lifestyle coaches will teach lessons and lead group discussions on various topics such as eating healthily, adding physical activity, managing stress and ways to stay on track when eating out.
The coaches will also assist in setting goals, building relationships, working as a team and helping to keep individuals motivated, Ginn-Meadow said.
“Those in the class who have stayed active and gone beyond 150 minutes of activity each week have the biggest outcome,” she said.
“You can cut years off of developing diabetes if you have prediabetes but your lifestyle really is the key. Education is very important for prevention, for management and treatment and a diabetes education can help people manage living with diabetes.”
Registration for the class is free and open to those at risk or those with prediabetes and other lifestyle challenges. To register, call 410-328-8402.