Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias It's not like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm not pacing the floor in overdramatic suspense.

Yesterday, during a routine visit to my doctor, I did something, however, that wasn't routine.

I requested, and received, a glucose test.

I want to determine whether I have diabetes.

I feel fine. I haven't been unusually thirsty. I haven't been showing any of the usual symptoms of the disease.

But reading and editing several news releases in recent weeks convinced me to pause long enough while I was at my doctor's office to ask to be tested.

This is what I've learned in just the past month:

* Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in South Dakota in 1999, accounting for 195 deaths and serving as a contributing factor in many more.

* The Department of Health estimates 40,000 South Dakotans have the disease, a third of them undiagnosed.

* Diabetes is a severe chronic disease with devastating complications such as amputations, blindness, kidney failure, problems during pregnancy, and a much higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death.

* Risk factors include being Native American, being over 45, being overweight, having a history of diabetes during pregnancy, having more than one baby born over nine pounds, and having a family history of diabetes.

* Several of those factors don't apply to me (I've never had a baby, for example). But as many as 226,819 South Dakotans have at least three of these risk factors for diabetes. I turned 45 in January. I need to eat less and exercise more. When I was a child, I watched my grandfather control his diabetes with a healthy diet and regular injections of insulin. Today, my mother must check her blood sugar every day for she, too, has been diagnosed with the disease.

The burden of diabetes in adults in the United States has increased substantially over the last decade. Diabetes represents a serious health risk to millions of Americans, according to new research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the findings, diabetes among adults increased rapidly during the 1990s across all regions, demographic groups and nearly all states in the United States. CDC researchers found the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes increased by 33 percent nationally during this time.

Between 1990 and 1998, a 70 percent increase in diabetes was found among individuals aged 30 to 39, followed by an increase of 40 percent among those aged 40 to 49, and a 31 percent increase among those aged 50 to 59.

In addition, the researchers found a 63 percent increase in diabetes cases among individuals with some college education, followed by a 47 percent increase among those who were college graduates or achieved higher levels of education.

Gov. William Janklow is calling together state government, medical providers, hospitals, clinics, community groups, and businesses to organize a statewide diabetes screening event this spring.

The project will give every adult over the age of 25 the opportunity to have a free finger stick blood glucose test, have the results interpreted, and be referred on to their medical provider for follow-up and diagnosis if the results are elevated. Screenings have been organized across the state.

In Vermillion, the free screenings have been available at several locations since the beginning of the year, but those wanting to take advantage of the program need to act quickly because it will be ending soon.

From April 23-27, glucose tests will be offered by appointment at the Clay County Community Health Nurse's office. Free glucose screening for the detection of diabetes will be offered by the Avera Sacred Heart Medical Clinic in Wakonda on Tuesday, April 24, from 8 a.m. to noon. No appointment is necessary.

I'm glad I was tested. The results may show I have nothing to worry about. They may show I have the disease and need to start treating it. Whatever the outcome, I will have gained peace of mind.

Isn't that worth the time for a simple glucose test?

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