It is National Diabetes Month which means it’s a good time to learn more about the potential effect of diabetes on many of us.
The number of people who are affected but remain unaware that they have prediabetes or diabetes, who are missing treatment opportunities, and potentially endangering their own health continues to be a staggering number.
Diabetes is a disease that usually begins slowly and without warning. Diabetes is a disease that inhibits your body’s ability to use blood sugar (glucose).
When you have a dysfunction of using or producing insulin, it leads to elevated blood sugar. When blood sugar is elevated, it causes damage that can be disabling and even life threatening.
Unfortunately, when your blood sugar has been too high for an extended period of time, damage to your organs and blood vessels can occur before you realize the disease is present.
The paradox is that we need glucose in the blood for our overall health, as we use it to fuel our muscles and tissues, especially our brain.
Elevated blood sugar, though not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes thus known as prediabetes, is problematic because most people don’t realize they have it because there are no symptoms. It affects 34% of Americans!
The good news about prediabetes is that we can prevent it from developing into Type 2 Diabetes with some healthy changes. The choices we make every day can impact the development of diabetes.
Tips for Preventing Diabetes
Some risks for prediabetes developing into diabetes are not in your power to change and are known as nonmodifiable factors.
These include age, family history or having gestational diabetes.
Therefore, it becomes even more important to take action to improve the factors we can positively impact through lifestyle choices.
- Begin by learning about blood sugar, potential complications of untreated disease, and which foods and other factors combine for a healthy lifestyle. Knowledge is power and prevention.
- Lose weight if needed using a healthy eating plan promoting gradual weight loss instead of a fad diet that can stress your health more that the extra pounds. A 5-10% weight loss can help prevent the development of diabetes.
- Drink enough water avoiding sugar sweetened beverages.
- Include whole wheat foods substituting them for half your total grain intake daily.
- Eat a source of lean protein at each meal which will help keep blood sugar stable.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Get a minimum of 7 hours of restful sleep each night.
- Keep track of your blood levels to be able to react quickly to manage abnormal blood sugar.
- Stay physically active, 30 minutes a day, so that your body’s own insulin will work better.
- Manage your cardiac health too! Know Your Numbers so you can create an action plan.
- If your doctor recommends it, take medications to help manage blood sugar and avoid diabetes; the drug metformin can reduce the risk of prediabetes becoming diabetes by 31%.
- Use this Diabetes Care Card to manage your data at each doctor visit
Symptoms of Elevated Blood Sugar
If there are no overt symptoms of prediabetes, how will you know when your blood sugar is higher than normal?
There are symptoms that you can observe of a higher than normal blood sugar which could indicate the need for you to get blood sugar testing.
These high blood sugar symptoms are identified by the American Heart Association/American Diabetes Association as follows:
Symptoms can include:
- Unusually frequent urination
- Feeling very thirsty – even though you are getting plenty of water
- Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet
Experts recommend that, if you are diagnosed with prediabetes, you should get your blood sugar tested every year.
If you have risk factors but your blood glucose tests are normal, it is recommended you repeat the test in three years to best track any changes so that early intervention can occur.
According to the experts, if a person with prediabetes doesn’t make changes to improve their lifestyle for health, the likelihood is that they will develop diabetes within ten years.
You don’t have to manage diabetes alone. Connect with your healthcare team including a registered dietitian, family and friends to get the support you need to achieve your health goals.
You can stay in control and reduce your risk of developing diabetes for the health of it!