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(Courtesy Photo)

(Courtesy Photo)

November is National Diabetes Month, and Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day – a day observed across the world each year to help people learn about diabetes and prediabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA), together with the New Mexico Diabetes Advisory Council (NMDAC), urges New Mexicans to know the signs and see their doctor if they think they have diabetes, and if they already have it, to know what to do to take care of themselves.

Anyone feeling extra thirsty and tired, and having to use the bathroom many times during the day and night, should see their doctor right away to talk about these symptoms. Untreated diabetes can result in blindness, kidney disease with dialysis, amputations, and can even lead to death.

The New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) reports more than 200,000 people in the state have diabetes, and 21 percent don’t even know they have it. An additional 120,000 have prediabetes, which occurs when a person’s blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be true diabetes. Prediabetes can lead to diabetes, but with treatment, blood sugar can return to normal and prevent real diabetes.

Preventing diabetes is part of the mission of the International Diabetes Federation – creator of the annual World Diabetes Day. This year’s campaign is “Nourishing Development: Halting the diabetes epidemic through healthy eating.” Eating a healthier diet and losing 5 to 7 percent of body weight, along with exercise, can help reverse prediabetes – and prevent the onset of diabetes.

For people who already have diabetes, working with a diabetes educator is a good way of lowering the chances of becoming blind, having kidney or nerve disease, or having a stroke or heart attack.

Diabetes educators are experts in helping people with diabetes understand how to make healthy choices that keep blood sugar levels in check, which is important in taking care of diabetes. Most insurance plans cover a visit to a diabetes educator or dietitian with a referral from the primary care doctor.

“Many people with diabetes and prediabetes think that if they ignore it then it will go away but that is not true” said Susan Dade, RD, LD, CDE, incoming chair of the NMDAC and diabetic educator at Artesia General Hospital. “New Mexico has some great diabetes educators available to help those with prediabetes and diabetes.”

People of any age can get diabetes, and November is the perfect time for people to talk to their educator or make an appointment with an educator to learn more. Information on risk factors, prevention, and taking care of diabetes are all available at the ADA website, www.diabetes.org. Family members can visit the website and urge their relatives and friends to visit their doctor and ask for a test or a referral to a diabetes educator. This step can save lives.

To schedule an appointment with Dade at AGH, call 746-3119.