Diabetes: Signs You May Be At Risk
If you are still hungry even after you’ve eaten a meal or if you are still thirsty no matter how much you drink, there’s a chance that you may be at risk for diabetes. While there is no permanent cure for diabetes, the good news is the condition can be treated and managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that causes higher than normal levels of blood sugar, also called blood glucose. When too much sugar stays in the bloodstream over time, serious health problems, like heart disease and kidney disease, can develop. Diabetes also increases the risk of nerve damage that can affect the hands, feet, legs, and arms.
According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 34.2 million, or 10 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes. In many cases, people can have diabetes and not even know it until they receive a diagnosis. CDC figures show an estimated 7.3 million people 18 years old and older have diabetes but have not been diagnosed. Depending on the type of diabetes a person has, it could take years to develop diabetic symptoms.
Causes of 3 Types of Diabetes
The underlying cause of diabetes depends on the type of diabetes that has been diagnosed. There are 3 main types of diabetes:
1. Type 1
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, but it is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers, and young adults. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the pancreas making very little or no insulin, the hormone that helps blood sugar enter the cells in the body to provide energy. When there is no insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream because it cannot get into the body’s cells. High blood sugar causes diabetes-related complications.
2. Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and can develop at any age. With Type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells resist the insulin that the pancreas makes. This is called, “insulin resistance.” So, the pancreas pumps out more insulin in order to get the cells to respond. However, when cells are not responding properly, blood sugar levels begin to rise because there is too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. High blood sugar levels can eventually cause kidney damage, heart disease, vision loss, and other health conditions.
Gestational diabetes develops when the body cannot make enough insulin during pregnancy. According to the CDC, gestational diabetes affects 2 percent to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States each year. When managed during pregnancy, gestational diabetes may resolve after the baby’s birth.
What is Prediabetes?
People with prediabetes have higher than normal blood sugar levels, but the levels are not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is also associated with insulin, either due to the inability of the pancreas to make enough insulin to keep blood sugar in the normal range or because of insulin resistance.
People who have genetic or lifestyle risk factors are more likely to develop prediabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDKD). Some of these factors include:
- Being overweight
- Lack of regular exercise
- A family history of diabetes
- A history of heart disease or stroke
- A history of gestational diabetes
- Age 45 or older
Health conditions such as high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels
In addition to these risk factors, the NIDDKD says other risk factors can contribute to insulin resistance, such as certain medications, hormonal disorders, and sleep disorders, like sleep apnea.
10 Warning Signs of Diabetes
How can you tell if you have diabetes? The condition comes with warning signs. However, people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes sometimes may not have symptoms. Medical professionals recommend visiting a doctor and getting a blood sugar test to determine if you have diabetes.
There is a chance that you may have diabetes if you experience some of the 10 common signs and symptoms of diabetes:
- Frequent urination (often at night)
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Excessive hunger (even after eating)
- Blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Slow-healing sores, cuts, and wounds
- Skin discoloration, usually found in the folds of the neck, underarm area, or groin
- Frequent infections, such as gum, skin, and yeast infections
In addition to these symptoms, people with type 1 diabetes may also experience nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains. The CDC says that type 1 diabetes symptoms can develop in just a few weeks or months and can be severe. However, it may take years for symptoms to develop in people with type 2 diabetes.
How To Prevent or Manage Diabetes
There is hope that positive steps taken with the help of medical professionals and health experts can prevent, delay the onset of, manage, and even reverse diabetes.
The NIDDKD recommends starting with the following lifestyle changes as a first step in managing or preventing diabetes:
- Lose extra weight and keep it off. By controlling your weight, you may be able to lose 5 percent to 10 percent of your current weight.
- Follow a healthy eating plan. Fruits, vegetables, calorie reduction, and practicing portion control can all assist with losing and maintaining your weight.
- Exercise on a regular basis. All forms of exercise, aerobic, resistance or a combination of both, have been found to lower average blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. The goal is to aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise (such as brisk walking, running, or biking) for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week. Resistance exercise, such as weightlifting and using resistance bands, increases strength and balance, among other things.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people who smoke cigarettes are 30 percent to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who do not smoke.
What is also important is to talk with your doctor about developing a diabetes care plan that can help you manage the disease. What may also help is joining a diabetes support group and taking classes on how to manage diabetes.
Diabetes is serious, but with medication, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and making dietary and lifestyle changes, health experts say you can still lead a normal life.