15+ silent signs you might be prediabetic
It’s an insidious and sneaky disease. One out of every four people who has it doesn’t even know it. But as sad as it is that some 30 million Americans have diabetes, the sadder fact is that many of those victims could have avoided the disease if they had known about the silent signs of a condition called prediabetes.
Prediabetes is a relatively new word to describe a condition where a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes. Last week I told you about new research showing that almost half of all Californians have prediabetes, a condition n which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetic.
Prediabetes is almost always present ahead of being afflicted with Type 2 diabetes, so it serves as an early warning of bad things to come if no action is taken to correct it. But there are things you can do to reverse the condition without resorting to medications and falling into the greedy clutches of the medical establishment.
But first, are you at risk? Well, there are about 318 million people in the U.S., and researchers estimate there are about 80 million to 90 million Americans over age 20 with prediabetes. So almost one out of three Americans are prediabetic. But that number may be even higher based on more recent research out of California.
Prediabetes risk factors
And almost no one knows they have the condition because there are usually no real symptoms, or they are so subtle they are not recognized as signs of a serious medical condition.
But here is a heads-up on the risk factors that could make you more vulnerable to prediabetes along with indicators that suggest it may already be present even if you feel perfectly fine.
Certain groups of people are more at risk than the average person to develop diabetes and in nearly all cases will progress through prediabetes first. The Mayo Clinic says you may be at elevated risk if these factors are present:
- You’re overweight, with a body mass index above 25.
- You’re inactive.
- You’re age 45 or older.
- You have a family history of Type 2 diabetes.
- You’re African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American or a Pacific Islander.
- You developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant or gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.
- You have polycystic ovary syndrome – a condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity.
- You have high blood pressure.
- Your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is below 35 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) (0.9 millimoles per liter, or mmol/L) or your triglyceride level is above 250 mg/dL (2.83 mmol/L).
You should have your blood sugar tested if you have any of these conditions that are often wrongly associated with other illnesses:
- Blurry vision — Maybe you just need new glasses, but if the blurriness comes and goes it could be caused by spikes and dips in your blood sugar.
- Excessive thirst — The body reacts to excess sugar by trying to flush it out through urine, which drains water from your body and causes dehydration.
- Frequent urination — Related to the same process that causes excessive thirst. Your body is trying to get rid of surplus sugar.
- Extreme fatigue — Your body uses sugar for fuel, but prediabetes causes insulin resistance, reducing the efficiency of converting glucose in your blood into energy.
- Sleep impairment, chronic insomnia — Having one bad night is not the same as tossing and turning every night. If you routinely get less than six hours of sleep a night, it may be a sign of prediabetes. Researchers believe this may be by interactions of hormones and the nervous system.
- Sudden unexplained weight loss — If the body doesn’t get energy from blood glucose, it starts burning other fuel supplies, resulting in weight loss even if you aren’t dieting and don’t work out regularly.
- Darkened areas of the skin — Dark, thick patches, called acanthosis nigricans, that show up in skin creases and folds on the neck, in the armpits, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on knuckles may be evidence that elevated levels of insulin are speeding up skin cell reproduction.
If you have any of these, or if you suspect you have a problem, the only way to find out for sure is to see your doctor for a blood test. So what do you do if the blood tests confirm you have prediabetes? That’s straightforward and simple, and works to improve your health whether you have prediabetes or not.
- Lose just a bit of weight — Shedding just 5 percent of your weight can make a huge difference in how insulin — the hormone that is your body’s master metabolic mediator — works to process blood sugar.
- Exercise regularly — You can do anything you enjoy, but blood flow is a necessity to change your metabolism back to a healthy one. Make it days a week. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, you might start with less time per day and work up.
- Stop smoking — Smoking is so bad for you that in almost every scientific study on health they have to account for and remove the effects of smoking or else it overwhelms the results.
- Lower inflammation — Diabetes and high blood pressure are part of the metabolic syndrome, caused by the disease of inflammation. Eat antioxidant-rich foods, and avoid carb-heavy and sugary foods which spike blood sugar and cause inflammation.
- Sleep well — Nutritionist Sheryl Lozicki reminds us that, “When you short yourself on sleep, it leads to mindless eating or eating out of fatigue to perk yourself up.”
How to prevent prediabetes
Lozicki offers these dietary guidelines to help fight off prediabetes. She urges that you make a firm commitment to try at least three of them for a minimum of four weeks.
- Drink a cup of water with meals and a cup between meals. This fills you up and helps you feel full faster.
- Eat whole fruit for more fiber and avoid fruit juice, soda, imitation juice drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.
- No foods other than fresh fruit and vegetables should be on your kitchen counter or in view.
- Keep cut-up fruits and vegetables up-front and available on the main shelf of your refrigerator as well.
- Write down what you eat and why. Were you hungry, angry, lonely, etc.? Know which triggers cause you to eat or overeat.
- Increase fiber in your diet to help lower blood sugar.
If you have any suspicions at all that you’re in a high-risk group for diabetes and/or have encountered any of the warning signs of prediabetes, get your blood tested.