Guest Opinion: A 5-minute diabetes risk assessment may save your life


March 22, 2014 

Do you have five minutes to spare, to see if you are at risk for diabetes?

If so, the five minutes or so that it takes to check risk factors could be a life-changing event. If I took those five minutes 20 years ago, I'd probably still have all my toes. Five-way heart bypass surgery would not have been necessary. And blindness would not have driven me from my job as a Statesman editorial writer.

If I had only taken those five minutes 20 years ago ….

So, please, don't make the same mistakes I've made. Take the American Diabetes Association's risk test. It's easy, and it's free. You can take the test online (, or receive a paper copy upon request at any Walgreens pharmacy.

The American Diabetes Association is urging people to take the test as part of its annual Diabetes Alert Day on March 25. But there's no need to wait until then to take the test, and it's OK if that date slips by and you take it later. The point is, take the test. You'll be glad you did.

The test asks simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risks for diabetes. If you are a male and over 60, you're more than halfway there as far as being at risk.

Please understand that getting a certain score on the test does not mean you have diabetes, or will get diabetes. It does mean that the risk factors are there, and it would be wise to pay attention and make some small lifestyle changes, if necessary. About 100,000 people in Idaho have diabetes and roughly a third of those who have the disease don't know it.

When I look at risk factors, I feel as if I am reading my life story. In terms of symptoms, I had an insatiable thirst and was drinking pitchers full of Gatorade every day - which is about the worst thing someone with diabetes can do. I felt numbness and coldness in my feet, which is a tell-tale sign of diabetes. I didn't react until I experienced severe blurry vision on a golf course, but by then it was too late.

I have gone through many of the complications - such as clogged heart valves, a toe amputation, foot and eye problems. Recently, I was diagnosed with kidney disease.

For now, I am 63 years old, manage my diabetes and feel wonderful. My eyesight has recovered, my heart is strong and healthy and I hold my own in golf. I have quite a bit of spare time these days, and much of it is spent volunteering for the American Diabetes Association and doing public speaking for the Lions Club.

About all I can do for myself is to manage the disease the best I can. But I'll take every opportunity to urge people to take pro-active steps to prevent this awful disease.

Diabetes strikes 26 million people in the United States and almost 80 million have this ticking time bomb called pre-diabetes. It's projected that one in three adults will have diabetes in 2050, unless we take steps to stop this deadly disease.

I've had my say, so now it's your turn. Take action. Don't become a statistic.

Chuck Malloy is a former editorial writer with the Idaho Statesman. He is a volunteer for the American Diabetes Association and serves as the Lions District 39W chairman for diabetes awareness.

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