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What is Diabetes and Are You at Risk?

Jaime Schlomann, RD, LD, CDE
ACMC-Willmar Skylark Center, Willmar Diabetes Center

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is too much sugar in the blood. Insulin helps get the sugar from our blood into our cells for energy. With diabetes, our body can not make enough insulin or our cells resist insulin leading to high blood sugar.

How common is Diabetes?

25.8 million people in the United States have diabetes. This is 8.3 percent of the total U.S. population. Of U.S. residents age 65 or older, 26.9 percent have diabetes. There is another 79 million people who have pre-diabetes and are at high risk to develop diabetes in the future.

Are you at risk for Diabetes?

Risk factors include:

  • being over age 45
  • family history of diabetes
  • being overweight
  • not regularly exercising
  • having high triglycerides and low HDL (healthy cholesterol)
  • having high blood pressure
  • females who have had a baby weighing more than nine pounds, and
  • certain racial or ethnic groups including African American, Native American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or a Pacific Islander.

How do you know if you have Diabetes?

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • frequent urination
  • unusual thirst
  • unusual weight loss
  • extreme fatigue
  • recurring skin gum, or bladder infections
  • blurred vision
  • slow healing, and
  • numbness in hands and feet.

Often people have no symptoms at all. Diabetes can be confirmed by lab work ordered by your primary care provider.

What are problems associated with Diabetes?

Undetected or uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk for complications including heart disease, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction, gum disease, amputations, and blindness.

How do I prevent or treat Diabetes?

You will need to make lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, and weight loss. You may also need diabetes medications and/or insulin.

Getting started with diet

  • eat 3 meals and 1 to 3 small snacks each day.
  • use the plate method to incorporate all 5 food groups 1/4 plate lean protein, 1/4 plate starch, 1/2 plate fruits and vegetables, and 1 serving of low fat milk.
  • eliminate sweetened beverages including regular soda pop.
  • learn more about carbohydrates and carbohydrate counting.
  • meet with a Registered Dietitian to form an individualized meal plan and goals.

Willmar Diabetes Center (WDC) is a joint venture of ACMC and Rice Memorial Hospital located at the Skylark Center, phone number (320) 231-6348.

Outreach is provided to:

  • Litchfield
  • Granite Falls
  • Marshall

WDC is made up of a Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Registered Nurses, and Registered Dietitians who work with each patient to determine the steps needed for a personal diabetes management and education plan.

Exercise recommendations

Exercise helps your body use insulin better. Start with short increments and increase to 150 minutes of exercise each week. This would be approximately 20 to 30 minutes every day. Walking, biking, dancing and swimming are all good options.

Weight loss goals

A five to ten percent weight loss can lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. A weight loss goal for a 200 pound adult would be 10 to 20 pounds.


There are many medication and insulin options your health care provider can prescribe to get your blood sugars to target. Different types of medications work in different ways to lower blood sugar so it may take a combination of 2 or more medications to control diabetes.