The diabetes education of Kathy Reis began in a panic. It was July 1985, and her 4-year-old daughter, Kari, was being rushed to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital with a blood glucose level over 800 mg/dl. Kari was about to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and Reis was about to head down the path to a new career as a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator.
"When Kari was diagnosed, I knew nothing about diabetes," says Reis, who then worked in the mortgage department of a bank. The diabetes education classes that soon followed helped equip Reis to care for her daughter, and inspired her to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. Today, Reis, who herself was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes six years ago, is program coordinator of the diabetes education center at Marietta (Ohio) Memorial Hospital.
Are You at Risk?
On Diabetes Alert Day, ADA encourages all Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test, which assesses your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. It is available online at
It is also important to get screened for diabetes regularly, and to see your doctor if you think you are at risk. While diabetes sometimes has no recognizable symptoms at first, you should also contact your doctor if
you are experiencing any signs of diabetes, including intense thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, blurred vision, and fatigue.
For Reis, every day is now an opportunity to spread the word about diabetes, and this March 23, American Diabetes Association Alert Day, ADA asks everyone affected by type 2 diabetes to do the same: raise awareness and promote prevention of type 2. This year's slogan is "What will you do to Stop Diabetes? Know your risk." You can join the movement to Stop Diabetes on Diabetes Alert Day and year-round by visiting stopdiabetes.com, where you can find local events and get healthy tips, or by calling 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).
In promoting Diabetes Alert Day, ADA aims in particular to reduce the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes; of 23.6 million Americans with diabetes, almost a quarter don't know they have it. And if diabetes continues to increase at the current rate, 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 (1 in 2 for some minority groups) will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by losing just 5 to 7 percent of body weight through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating. Ignoring your diabetes can be dangerous, Reis says, noting how her daughter, now Kari Smith, a 28-year-old pharmacy technician, rebelled against her diabetes as a teenager by neglecting her management of it. "[When I was] a cheerleader," Smith recalls, "the [insulin] pump would stick out and become very noticeable, and I felt like everyone made fun of me because I had diabetes." She refused to wear her pump for years and took poor care of herself, ending up in the hospital several times. Not until she was 18 did she regain control of her health.
For those fighting to avoid diabetes or its complications, Diabetes Alert Day is a reminder to keep up good habits or recover from bad ones. "So many people see other friends and family members suffer from complications. That does not have to be your story," Reis says. "Take the steps to be aware and change your behavior to make the best of it all."