diabetes: are you at risk?

Courtney Takabayashi
March 27, 2023

Most of us know that diabetes is a serious health condition. But did you know that while about 128,653 people in Hawaii have been diagnosed with diabetes, there’s an additional 39,000 people who have diabetes but don’t know it? Even more troubling, there are 410,000 people in the islands, or 37.1% of the adult population, who have prediabetes.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. One of the best ways to prevent diabetes is to understand and minimize your risks. In observance of Diabetes Alert Day, we talked to Certified Diabetes Educator Lisa Morita to learn more about warning signs and the benefit of taking the Prediabetes Risk Test. Plus, Christine Kelly, who lives with type 2 diabetes, shares how her life changed since her diabetes diagnosis.

Understanding type 2 diabetes
Diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affects how the body turns food into energy. Our bodies break down most of the food we eat into sugar, also called glucose, and release it into the bloodstream. When our blood sugar goes up, it signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is the key to letting blood sugar into your body’s cells to use as energy. Those with type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly.

The Hawaii Department of Health describes type 2 diabetes as “the most prevalent form of the disease, occurring in about 90% to 95% of people with diabetes.”

Type 2 diabetes risk factors
According to the CDC, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes increase if you:

  •  Have prediabetes.
  • Are overweight.
  • Are 45 years or older.
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes.
  • Are physically active less than three times a week.
  • Have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed over 9 pounds.
  • Are an African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, or Alaska Native person. Some Pacific Islanders and Asian American people are also at higher risk.

Warning signs
“You may not know you have prediabetes or diabetes,” Morita says. “But some of the signs of high blood sugar are excessive thirst, feeling hungry all the time, a lack of energy, and changes in vision.”

If you notice these signs, consider taking the Prediabetes Risk Test. “It’s simple and it will only take a minute,” Morita says. “If you find out if you’re at risk for diabetes, we encourage you to follow up with your doctor.”

Take control
When Kelly was diagnosed with diabetes, she was surprised. “I could have gone on without even knowing I had diabetes,” she says. “It could have killed me.”

However, she decided to take control of her health. She watches what she eats and monitors her blood sugar daily. “Now, I feel good,” Kelly says. “I’m aware of the food I’m eating and what I’m putting into my body.”

Kelly has advice for anyone who’s been diagnosed with diabetes. “Just know you can control it. Your health is in your hands.”

Lifestyle changes such as losing weight if you’re overweight, eating a healthy diet, and being active on a regular basis have been proven to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Learn more
Watch as Morita and Kelly discuss diabetes awareness, education, prevention, and management.  

Additional information
For more information about diabetes, check out these articles:

controlling gestational diabetes
diabetes and gum disease
diabetes education resource guide
hawaii’s fight against diabetes
imagine: life without diabetes
managing diabetes with healthy habits
world health day: beating diabetes

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