DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — November is Diabetes Awareness Month and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in five Americans don’t know they have it.

Alabama is known for many things including its sweet tea and fried foods. Unfortunately, this has caused the sunbelt state to also be part of the diabetes belt.

“Shedding a light on diabetes is very important really for our area particularly in the south and Alabama,” said the Director of the ACOM Ashford Clinic, Dr. Justin Hovey. “In general, we have a high prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes here. Where we are in the sunbelt region we call that the diabetes belt and the reasoning behind that has to do with the number of people who are afflicted by this disease.”

Due to high diabetes prevalence in Alabama, Hovey says screening is important because the disease is the leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, and other vascular problems.

“People who are obese, overweight, who have sedentary lifestyles are at the highest risk, a family history of type two diabetes also increases that risk of having the disease late in life,” Hovey said.

Screenings are done through blood work or urine samples. Usually, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes present in different ways.

“Type 1 Diabetes is its own disease in the sense that the pancreas is no longer producing insulin,” Hovey said. “We do see that in mostly being diagnosed in younger individuals, so children, adolescence, and even young adults for that matter. Type 2 Diabetes is a little more settle in trying to pick up patients with that so the screening is required and that essentially starts out with the body not recognizing its own insulin in the receptors.”

Hovey says if you start having symptoms of increased thirst, increased urination, changes in vision, or burning and tingling in the feet these are all warning signs of diabetes.

For patients diagnosed with diabetes, this disease involves a lot of self-awareness, monitoring insulin and sugar levels in order to cope.

“I basically try to eat and regulate my sugar throughout the day, I check my sugar before every meal or if I feel bad,” said Type 1 Diabetes patient, Coty Barr. “So if I feel like hazy or if I’m urinating a lot it’s high, Type 1 is a little bit harder to control.”

Dr. Hovey urges his patients to get screened for diabetes if they have any symptoms or a family history of it.