Health groups spread awareness during American Diabetes Month

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Right now, nearly 80 million people don't know they're prediabetic.

And that's the reason why the disease is becoming an epidemic, said Sarah Ferguson, a clinical nurse specialist in diabetes for Centegra Health System. 

She cited statistics offered by the Center for Disease Control and the American Diabetes Association, which works to raise awareness of the disease. As part of that, this month is American Diabetes Month. And last Thursday, free screenings were hosted in McHenry County and elsewhere as part of World Diabetes Day.

"World Diabetes Days is to shed a spotlight on diabetes and maybe urge people who hadn't thought about it to see their doctors," Ferguson said. 

"I have a lot of patients who come, and they're so fearful that they're going to lose a leg or have blindness or kidney disease," she said. "Nowadays, that doesn't happen because we know how to control the blood sugars. ... It's so easy."

Centegra paired with state Rep. Mike Tryon to host a recent screening in Huntley. Tryon has type 2 diabetes, the most common form occurring when blood glucose levels in the body rise higher than normal and does not use insulin properly.

Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults when the body does not produce insulin. 

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

Those at risk for type 2 diabetes include anyone older than 45, overweight, with a family history of diabetes or high blood pressure and low  HDL, or good cholesterol, Ferguson said.

It's estimated that 7 million Americans have the disease and don't know, according to the American Diabetes Association.

"Usually if people are being followed by their doctors, their doctors are going to screen them if they feel they're at risk," she said. 

A screening entails a finger stick that allows a look at blood glucose levels. 

People also can do risk assessments through the American Diabetes Association's website at

Those identified as prediabetic early enough can prevent the disease or reduce their risk, Ferguson said. Typically, people have elevated blood sugar levels for a year before they're diagnosed, she said.

One way to prevent is to stay fit and active and live a healthier lifestyle, she said. At least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day is ideal, she said.

"Even just losing 5 to 7 percent of your weight can actually work toward prevention," she said. "Once you're diagnosed, it's actually the same strategy, lose that weight, the fat around the middle, and stay active. Those are still the two kind of pillars."

If not diagnosed or treated over time, diabetes can be more difficult to manage.

"The main reason to get diagnosed and treated early is to prevent long-term complications," she said.

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