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Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes?

(BPT) - Are you or a loved one at risk for type 2 diabetes? It can be difficult to know, but considering an astounding one in eight Americans has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s worthwhile to understand the risk factors.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include people who are overweight, are under active, older than 45 or who have a family history of diabetes. African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also at higher risk. Understanding your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, or getting an early diagnosis, is critical to successful treatment and delaying or preventing some of its complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and death.

For more than 25 years, the American Diabetes Association has set aside special time for people to learn their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Starting on the fourth Tuesday of every March, American Diabetes Association Alert Day is a "wake-up call" asking the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test. This year’s Alert Day campaign will kick-off on March 24 and continue through April 21. The Association will also be encouraging the public to start living a healthy and active lifestyle by asking them to join a Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes event in their area. 

The Diabetes Risk Test asks users to answer simple questions about their weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Preventive tips are provided for everyone who takes the test. 

Jennifer Atkins knows all too well the toll diabetes can take on an entire family. She’s watched many members of her family fight type 2 diabetes, including both of her parents, who work together in managing their disease, and her maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather, both of whom passed away from complications. Her mother’s brother and sister both have prediabetes and are now committed to a life of healthy eating and exercise in order to prevent type 2.

Atkins and her husband, Rob, have two children, Toby and Naomi. While pregnant with Naomi, Atkins was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which makes her risk higher for type 2 diabetes later on. She was 36 years old, fit and healthy and had never struggled with her weight. “This was genetics at work,” she says.

“Being surrounded by diabetes all my life, I had a lot of family support with my gestational diabetes,” she said. “I took a short walk in their shoes.”

Now at 40, Atkins knows she has a higher risk of developing type 2 someday, because of both her family history and gestational diabetes, but she’s doing all she can to prevent or delay it. She understands that as she gets older she will need to work harder at maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.

“We are still learning so much as a family about the disease itself, but the good news is we are learning a lot from each other,“ she says.

Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed by losing just 7 percent of body weight (such as 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating. By understanding your risk, you can take the necessary steps to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Be part of the movement to stop diabetes. Take the Diabetes Risk Test and share it with everyone you know. Visit diabetes.org/alert to learn more.