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According to the CDC, more than 37 million adults in the United States have diabetes. 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Undiagnosed diabetes is even more common in communities where screening and resources are less accessible.

To learn more about diabetes, its signs, and prevention, we talked to PAGNY Dr. Michelle Soto, MD, MBA, the Chief of Ambulatory Care at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island. We share the tips and information she gave us on what to look out for and when to see your doctor.

We also take a look at three PAGNY-partner New York City Health + Hospitals renowned for their excellent, patient-centered diabetes care for NYC’s multicultural population. As public-facing professionals, PAGNY physicians at these NYC H+H locations are proud to provide diabetes treatment and prevention programs to all New Yorkers, regardless of their ability to pay.

What is diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or it doesn’t use the insulin as well as it should. Insulin helps to turn the food you eat into energy by moving sugars from your blood into your cells. When insulin is absent or not working well, the sugars stay in your bloodstream. This can lead to serious health problems, like cardiovascular diseases, lower limb amputation, vision loss, and kidney disease.

There are two “Types” of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition that often shows up early in life. It affects 5-10% of people with diabetes. There is no current way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

  • Type 2 diabetes is much more common, affecting over 90% of everyone with diabetes. It is often the result of environmental conditions rather than genetics. This means that Type 2 diabetes can be avoided or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, like maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy food, and staying active.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Early symptoms of diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes, aren't always obvious. In fact, signs and symptoms can come on so gradually that people may have Type 2 diabetes for years before they're diagnosed with the disease. The CDC estimates that 20% of people with diabetes don’t even know it!

Three signs that you should get checked for diabetes:

  1. Excessive thirst and increased urination. When you have diabetes, excess glucose builds up in your blood.
  2. Fatigue. Dehydration from increased urination also can leave you feeling fatigued.
  3. Tingling hands and feet. Too much glucose in your blood can affect the function of your nerves.

If you notice any possible diabetes signs or symptoms, contact your doctor. Diabetes is a serious condition, and the earlier it's diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.

Diabetes testing and treatment

Without proper screening, diabetes can be difficult to detect. Luckily, diabetes is found with a routine blood test, so diagnostic options are accessible with a regular visit to your doctor.

There are also some strategies to avoid or delay the onset of diabetes, even with initial signs of “pre-diabetes”. The NYC Department of Health provides a wealth of information on local resources for eating healthy, and the CDC has prevention and education tools available on their website.

The best diabetes care is multi-disciplinary and holistic. Finding ways to manage your blood sugar levels, your insulin intake, diet and exercise, and working with your diabetes care team, can help you feel healthier and help you stay on top of your condition.

Diabetes Care at NYC H+H

Three PAGNY-affiliated NYC H+H locations—Lincoln, Metropolitan, and Kings County—are Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) sites. DSMES provides a foundation for the ongoing process of diabetes self-management, with trained Certified Diabetes Specialists to guide people towards beneficial behaviors and proactive care. Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of DSMES, including improved clinical outcomes and quality of life while reducing hospitalizations and health care costs. Education, support, and treatment are individualized, with physicians and healthcare professionals who understand their community’s cultural background.

PAGNY partners with NYC H+H/Lincoln in the Bronx, whose Diabetes Center of Excellence is accredited by the The American Diabetes Association (ADA). Frequent classes, specialized clinics, and certified diabetes specialists provide education and support for pediatric, pregnant, and adult diabetics. Lincoln’s specialized, bilingual curriculum provides care and guidance influenced by the diverse health beliefs, attitudes, and practices of its Bronx communities.

In Manhattan, you can find another accredited Diabetes Center of Excellence at NYC H+H/Metropolitan. Metropolitan’s care program meets national standards for diabetes self-management education, which have been shown to improve clinical outcomes and quality of life. Especially important are ongoing support to encourage healthy behaviors and address psychosocial concerns through individual counseling and group classes.

If you enter the The Diabetes Education Program at NYC H+H/Kings County in Brooklyn, you might stumble on a cooking lesson in the demonstration kitchen. Good nutrition is key to diabetes management, and the specially designed Diabetes Center offers individual education, culturally sensitive and multilingual materials, and group courses to help patients manage the disease. A PAGNY-affiliated facility, the Kings County’s Diabetes Resource Center is American Diabetes Association (ADA)-recognized for its excellent education program.

PAGNY healthcare professionals are proud to serve residents of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn at these leading Diabetes Care facilities. Diabetes is common, but with proper testing and care, it can be avoided or managed. NYC H+H locations and PAGNY physicians deliver exceptional service to New Yorkers with diabetes all over the city through outstanding, patient-centered health care, accessible testing, ongoing treatment, and consistent support.

If you feel any of the possible diabetes symptoms that Dr. Soto warned about—excessive thirst and urination, fatigue, or tingling in your hands and feet—visit your doctor today. Getting tested is the first step on your path to staying healthy.