As millions of Americans live with diabetes, and even more remain at risk of it, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will mark November as National Diabetes Month with an event to educate and raise awareness of diabetes.
The free event is open to the public and will take place Friday, November 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Madison Plaza lobby. It will focus on improving overall health and will include a health fair, diabetes screenings, information on healthy living, and much more.
According to Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, DSc, MBA, chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism in the UTHSC College of Medicine, diabetes currently affects 34.2 million adults in the U.S. As diabetes and prediabetes are clinically silent, affected people may not know they have the conditions, and efforts to increase public awareness are critical.
“Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney damage, nerve damage, amputation, and blindness and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. These complications can be prevented by timely diagnosis and good control of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes,” Dr. Dagogo-Jack said.
While the number of people with diabetes is high, the rate of prediabetes is even more staggering. In Tennessee, prediabetes affects more than 34% of adults. Nationally, about 96 million people have prediabetes, but according to Dr. Dagogo-Jack, more than 75% of them are unaware of their condition. Prediabetes progresses to type 2 diabetes in about 10% of people each year, and Dr. Dagogo-Jack said that’s why it’s essential to get tested regularly for diabetes and other risk factors.
“There is now abundant evidence that the development of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by lifestyle modification in people with prediabetes,” Dr. Dagogo-Jack said. “Getting tested and working with clinicians, dietitians, and other experts to manage weight and increase physical activity should be a priority for people with prediabetes.”
Diabetes can be diagnosed with the help of several different tests. At UTHSC’s diabetes awareness event, University Health Services will perform crucial biometric screenings to test blood pressure, blood sugar levels, lipid panels, and body mass index. Hamilton Eye Institute will provide optical screenings, and the College of Dentistry will provide dental screenings that can detect signs of diabetes or prediabetes.
Since nutrition and physical activity are important parts of a healthy lifestyle for people with or without diabetes, the diabetes awareness event will include a food demo and nutritional guidance from the UTHSC Health Hub and the Clinical Research Center. Representatives from the UTHSC Fitness Center will also be at the event with various activities to test participants’ fitness levels.
UTHSC’s Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism holds diabetes and prediabetes awareness events each year, and Dr. Dagogo-Jack said the message spreads far beyond the UTHSC campus.
“People who work at UTHSC in any capacity represent a unique source for disseminating health information to the wider society,” he said. “Our UTHSC staff can influence health behavior in their families, places of worship, community engagement outlets, recreational centers, and social networks.”