Nothing's sweet about high blood sugar, and a lot of people at risk of diabetes don't learn that until it's too late.
And that's too bad, because the sooner they see the danger, the better their chances of dodging the diagnosis.
That's why District 1 Councilor Jerry "Pops" Barnes pushed to have free diabetes testing offered at a dozen Columbus fire stations, a healthcare initiative that kicks off at 11 a.m. today at Fire Station No. 4, 200 N. Oakley Drive.
After that, local residents can stop in at one of the 12 stations 9 a.m.-9 p.m. any day to get a blood-sugar screening. If the test indicates they have diabetes, they can get advice on what to do next. If it shows they are just at risk, they can get information on what to do to avoid the disease and mitigate the damage high blood sugar causes.
The other 11 stations at which screenings will be available are: Station 1 at 205 10th Ave., Station 2 at 1347 29th Ave., Station 3 at 2000 American Way, Station 5 at 6700 Lynch Road, Station 6 at 1126 Brown Ave., Station 7 at 5343 Buena Vista Road, Station 8 at 5844 Whitesville Road, Station 9 at 4020 Jay St., Station 10 at 1441 Benning Drive, Station 11 at 4617 Warm Springs Road, and Station 15 at 7301 McKee Road.
The program is a cooperative effort involving the city government, the Columbus Research Foundation and the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project. Barnes, a registered nurse who started the Pan Columbus Wellness Project to offer low-income residents free health screenings, said he often has met people who need help monitoring their blood sugar. Some just lack the necessary equipment and don't know where to go for help, he said.
If left untreated, elevated blood sugar can damage the kidneys, nerves and eyes, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Symptoms include increased thirst or hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, weight loss and frequent urination.
According to the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org, 54 million Americans are pre-diabetic and 20.8 million have diabetes, but a third of those who have the disease don't know it. The association recommends those who are overweight and age 45 or older have their blood-sugar tested.
Sometimes people at risk of developing diabetes can so improve their health through diet and exercise that they are never diagnosed with the disease.
"We want people to let us test 'em," said Jerry Fountain, assistant chief of Columbus Fire & Emergency Medical Services. "We're going to have some literature there that we will give them. There are a number of people who for some reason or another may not know where they can get some help... . And there are programs out there. There are federal programs out there and some state programs. We want to be able to give them that information."