Department of Health Urges Pennsylvanians to Monitor Diabetes Risks

March 22 is National Diabetes Alert Day

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Knowing your risk of diabetes and taking steps to prevent or manage the disease can improve your health and even extend your life, acting Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila said today.

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults and non-traumatic lower extremity amputations.  

"Diabetes is a serious disease, particularly when it is left undiagnosed or untreated," said Dr. Avila. "Everyone should be aware of their risk for diabetes especially those who may have a family history of the disease or women who may have had issues with diabetes during pregnancy. Those individuals are at an increased risk and, if they haven't already done so, should speak with their healthcare provider."

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce or stops producing insulin, resulting in type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs if the body is not producing enough insulin and/or the body cannot use the insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone that helps convert sugar and starches from food into energy.

Diabetes rates are on the rise nationwide. Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes and an estimated 79 million adults have pre-diabetes, placing them at increased risk for developing the disease. In Pennsylvania, nearly 872,000 adults – or approximately 9 percent - have been diagnosed with diabetes.

"If you are at risk for diabetes, the good news is that you can take action now to lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes through healthy lifestyle changes," Dr. Avila added.  

Although the causes of diabetes are not certain, genetics and lifestyle factors, such as obesity and a lack of exercise, can play a role. Diabetes can be prevented or delayed by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. For those who already have diabetes, it is important to manage the disease by monitoring what you eat, exercising often, testing blood sugar regularly and taking medication as prescribed.

To take the Diabetes Risk test and to learn more about your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Education Program's website at  The test is available in English and Spanish.

For more information about diabetes in Pennsylvania, visit

Media contact: Holli Senior, 717-787-1783

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health