When Steve Small noticed Novant Health was offering community health screenings at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics, he thought it would be a good chance to check in on his health.

He didn’t know the screening would change his life.

Off-the-charts A1C

“I was feeling great! At least, I thought I was,” Small said. His screening results told a different story.

Small’s blood pressure, body mass index and A1C, or blood sugar level, were checked. His A1C raised the most alarm among the screening staff.

“A1C testing is where we prick your finger and look at a percentage of what your blood sugar range has been for the past three months, which lets you know if you have prediabetes or diabetes,” said Novant Health screening nurse LaKeisha McAuley. 

Normal A1C is less than 5.7 percent; prediabetes is 5.7 to 6.4 percent; and diabetes is 6.5 percent or higher. During his first screening, Small’s A1C was a whopping 17 percent – nearly 2.5 times the recommended range.

“I didn’t realize how badly I was falling apart then,” Small said. ”I mean, I was 275 pounds with high blood pressure and blood sugar through the roof. Now, with the help of Novant Health, they’ve got me in perfect shape.”

Catching preventable health conditions early

After his initial screening, Small met with a doctor, a dietitian and a diabetes patient educator to come up with a plan to get his blood sugar under control.

Thousands of people like Small are learning about their risk for common, preventable conditions such as prediabetes, high blood pressure and obesity as part of Novant Health’s wellness initiative known as Remarkable You . The effort includes free health screenings in communities across the health system’s four-state footprint.

By the numbers, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes and one in four doesn’t know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . One out of every three Americans over age 20 has prediabetes, the government agency warned .

“As Steve Small discovered, sometimes prediabetes and diabetes have no warning signs, which is why it’s critical that people know their numbers and have an ongoing dialogue with their doctors about their risk,” said Cathy Thomas, a diabetes educator at Novant Health.

“It’s important to get tested if you’re at risk ,” she added. “Think of it as an early warning system – a simple test can alert you that you may need to make some lifestyle changes to avoid more serious conditions.”

Feeling like a million bucks

Small took his results to heart. Today, after numerous healthy lifestyle changes such as eating better and exercising more, Small has been able to reduce his A1C to 6.2 percent, as of his latest screening.

“I feel like a million dollars, and I’ve been around a million dollars, so I know how it feels,” Small said, with a grin.

McAuley has stayed in contact with Small. “He’s doing great, just a complete turnaround,” she said. “But he never would have known that there was a problem had we not been screening here in the community.”

To find a free health screening near you, along with health and wellness tips, visit NovantHealth.org/RemarkableYou .