Look around the gathering of friends at the favorite coffee spot, coworkers at the office, store or shop or at the people you meet on the street. Statistically speaking, in a group of four people, one will have diabetes but not know it. In a group of three, one will have prediabetes and be at high risk for developing the disease.


Look around the gathering of friends at the favorite coffee spot, coworkers at the office, store or shop or at the people you meet on the street. Statistically speaking, in a group of four people, one will have diabetes but not know it. In a group of three, one will have prediabetes and be at high risk for developing the disease.

For many, diagnosis may come seven to 10 years after the onset of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association, which sponsored Alert! Day on March 22, to encourage people to understand their risks and begin treatment if necessary.

Even in the absence of symptoms, diabetes may be damaging blood vessels, nerves and kidneys and hindering the body’s ability to fight infection and heal, said Megan  Klausmeyer, a pharmacist and member of a diabetes education team at Pratt Regional Medical Center.

Other team members include Kathy Smith, ARNP and certified diabetes educator, and Stephanie Becker, registered dietitian. Diabetes is a self-management disease, they stress; taking a pill or a shot just won’t be enough.

Smith, who works in the hospital emergency room, may see patients first, when they come in with a diabetic emergency. The diagnosis may be devastating — patients view it as requiring a major lifestyle change.

A diabetic crisis will typically result in a couple of days in the hospital. During that time, team members will focus on teaching enough information to enable the person to go home. They may need a week, two weeks or a month to process the information and be ready to make lifestyle changes.

Not all changes will be major.

“We try to minimize that,” Klausmeyer said. “We show them little things make a difference, but at the end of the day, it’s not going away.”

“I get them to make a commitment,” Becker said, noting that may involve cutting a two-liter soda a day habit in half, or eating a balanced breakfast, then a snack a couple of hours later.

When the initial commitment becomes habit, she will press them to make another — “if you can do that, can you do this also?”

She emphasizes serving sizes and reading labels.

Diabetes can sometimes be managed successfully with diet and exercise. Other times, medication will be needed soon after the diagnosis. Eventually, most diabetics will require medication, Klausmeyer said.

All three stress that diabetes can be managed, but it requires a personal commitment.

The bottom line: eat right and stay active. Take advantage of free or low-cost testing available at PRMC’s health fair every other year — the next one will be in 2012. See your doctor for an annual checkup, especially if you’re 30 to 35 or older and if there are family risk factors for diabetes.