North Dakota educators, researchers work to better detect diabetes in early stages

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 6:36 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - More than 54,000 people in North Dakota have diagnosed diabetes and 183,000 people are pre-diabetic. That’s why educators and researchers are working to help residents better detect the disease.

In any North Dakota crowd, an estimated 1 in 50 people has diabetes but doesn’t know it.

“I do think we are seeing more of it. I also think our community of providers are doing a much better job of looking for it,” said Donna Amundson, certified diabetes care and education specialist with Sanford.

Donna Amundson says food, activity, and stress play a big role in the disease.

“We can’t do anything about our heredity, and we can’t do anything about our age. But we can do something about how active or inactive we are,” said Amundson.

Every year, more than 5,000 North Dakotans are diagnosed with diabetes.

Danling Wang says her gestational diabetes diagnosis was what drove her to research the topic.

“I pinched my finger almost every day a couple times. It was so stressful, and I was so scared even. So, I talked to my pediatrician and my doctor and said, ‘How can we solve this issue?’” said Danling Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NDSU.

In August, Wang and two other NDSU professors, Jen Li and Kristine Steffen, received a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop artificial intelligence technology in a way that they hope could help predict the onset of diabetes. The project will be to create an affordable wearable device that monitors the user’s breath. Researchers say it won’t need Wi-Fi to operate.

“We have been working on this in different apps, applications. So, this one would directly impact [users] without using any complicated devices,” said Jen Li, professor of computer science at NDSU.

“[Our goal] is to give them a very early alarm to protect their health and monitor closely,” said Wang.

For improved quality of life, diabetes educators say early detection is key.

“If we wait until we have signs and symptoms of diabetes; increased thirst, going to the bathroom more often, extreme fatigue... by the time we have the symptoms the sugar has been elevated for quite a while. So, I just encourage people to visit their primary providers on a regular basis,” said Amundson.

A diabetes risk assessment quiz can be found on the American Diabetes Association website.

The American Diabetes Association reports that medical expenses are approximately 2.3 times higher for those with diabetes than those without the disease. Medical expenses for diagnosed diabetes in North Dakota totals more than $660 million annually.

The NDSU project is a collaboration of six universities, including NDSU and the University of North Dakota, and several private partners. Students will assist in the project. The project is scheduled to take one year.