Know Your Risks, Raise Your Awareness and Prevent Diabetes

Expert advice from Jane Livingston, registered dietician, certified diabetes educator and program developer, Highmark Inc.

Oct 27, 2010, 07:10 ET from Highmark Inc.

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- November is annually designated as diabetes month to create awareness about the disease that affects nearly 24 million Americans. Diabetes is the leading public health crisis of the 21st century, and it continues to grow at epidemic proportions. Nearly 25 percent of people who have diabetes don't even know it. The following tip sheet will give insight into signs that you or a loved one may be at risk for diabetes, and provide resources to help you to prevent this disease.

Know your risks

It's important to know the risks for developing diabetes so you can begin making preventive lifestyle choices today. You have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes if:

  • You have a family history of diabetes.
  • You developed diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Your race or ethnicity is African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You are over age 45.
  • You are overweight.
  • You are physically inactive.

You should be screened for type 2 diabetes at three-year intervals beginning at age 45, particularly if you're an individual with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater. Speak with your health care provider about your personal risks and how often you should be tested.

Raise your awareness

Only some people experience warning signs or symptoms of diabetes—that's why it's important to know the risk factors. Individuals may go many years without apparent symptoms of diabetes. Plus, some of the symptoms for diabetes are similar to other conditions. Don't assume that a "lack of symptoms" means that everything is okay. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Fatigue
  • Unusual weight gain or loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Slow-healing sores or cuts
  • Bleeding and sore gums

If you experience any of these symptoms, see your health care provider as soon as possible.

Prevent diabetes

  • Talk to your health care provider about a prevention plan. Regular medical check-ups and a healthy lifestyle can dramatically lower the risk of developing diabetes. Take action today to control your risk tomorrow.
  • Work on losing weight, if overweight. Losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can significantly lower your risk—that's 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Reduce the number of calories you eat by decreasing portions and leaving a few bites of food on your plate.
  • Strive to get some exercise every day. Work up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking.
  • Make healthy food choices and eat regular meals and snacks. Choose high fiber, whole grain foods over refined grains and "white" starchy products. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink water and other calorie-free beverages.

More support

Diabetes care—and preventing diabetes—begins with you. But you're not alone. If you are a Highmark member, we will work with you and your health care provider to help keep you on the right track to managing your diabetes. With the tools, resources and support, you can be in control of your diabetes.

  • HealthMedia® CARE® for Diabetes

Control your diabetes. Don't let it control you. Care for Diabetes gives you the tools you need to live life on your terms. This online self-help program, featuring digital health coaching, helps you take charge of your diabetes, learn more about your condition and make positive lifestyle changes. Choose from other online programs for weight management, cholesterol reduction, blood pressure control, physical activity and more. Log on to your Highmark Member website (check the back of your Highmark Member ID card for web address and then choose "Your Health," then "Improve your Health.")  

  • Blues On Call(sm)

This comprehensive support program for your health questions is just one toll-free call or quick e-mail away. By contacting Highmark's Blues On Call, you will be connected with a health coach, who comes from a team of registered nurses and lifestyle specialists, who will help you better manage your diabetes. They will keep you up to date with the latest information regarding the disease, offer treatment plan guidance and provide tools to help make managing your diabetes a little easier. To contact a health coach, call the toll-free number on the back of your Highmark Member ID card.

  • Personal Nutrition Coaching

Work one-on-one with a registered dietitian at a Preventive Health Alliance site near you to develop a personalized diabetes care or prevention plan. Call 1-800-879-2217 for a location near you.

  • Wellness Discount Program

Highmark members can learn to make smart health choices and take advantage of special savings and discounts on products and services exclusively for members. Choose from leading national companies including weight management programs, hearing and vision discounts, fitness discounts, fitness center memberships, and complementary and alternative medicine products and services. Log on to your Highmark Member website (check the back of your Highmark Member ID card for web address then access the discounts under "Your Coverage.")  

About the expert

Jane Livingston is a preventive health services program developer for Highmark Inc. She coordinates and manages program development, implementation and evaluation of preventive health and wellness programs for Highmark employees, Highmark group accounts, and community and hospital-based sites. Ms. Livingston is author of Cooking for the Health of It, and is a registered dietitian, Pennsylvania licensed dietitian-nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. Ms. Livingston received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from Villa Maria College in Erie, Pa.

About Highmark Inc.

As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.7 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit

SOURCE Highmark Inc.