DOVER -- Diabetes can cause life-threatening complications. An estimated 26 million Americans have diabetes.

"Perhaps even more alarming is that about one-quarter of all adults and children with diabetes are undiagnosed. They don't know they have the disease," according to Pam Dummermuth, RN, coordinator of Community Health and Wellness at UH. "When diabetes remains undetected and untreated, the health risks become even worse."

With a goal of helping people evaluate their diabetes risk factors, Dummermuth has announced that Diabetes Alert Day is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Dover Giant Eagle.

Union Hospital, with the support of the American Diabetes Association, will be offering a variety of diabetes screenings and risk assessments, administered by Registered Dietitians. Everybody who takes part in a diabetes risk assessment will be entered into a drawing for a gas card prize. No appointment is required and the screening tests are free. Testing and risk assessment is done on a walk in basis.

"The growing number of people in our community who have elevated blood sugars is alarming," said Ann Strauss, Union Hospital's Certified Diabetic educator. "We hope that by focusing attention on diabetes and offering free and easy risk evaluations, we can help people learn more about diabetes, lower their risk factors, and make lifestyle changes to reduce the serious complications of the disease."

At Diabetes Alert Day, nurses from the UH Community Health and Wellness Department will be offering hemoglobin A1C screenings. This finger stick non-fasting test will give those who are managing their diabetes an idea of what their average blood sugar level has been over several months. Large fluctuations in blood sugar levels can lead to complications from diabetes such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and stroke.

The A1C test costs $5 and an appointment is required. To make an appointment, call 330-602-0778 or visit the Union Hospital web site at www.unionhospital.org. Fasting is not required for this test.

"Good blood sugar control directly impacts the A1C result," Dummermuth said. "I refer to it as the batting average of blood sugars as it looks back over the last few months for an average level."