About one in 10 Americans have diabetes, which works out to more than 30 million people. More than 80 million other U.S. adults are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and that’s sobering news when you realize that this disease – which is closely aligned with blood glucose levels in your body – can lead to blindness, nerve damage, and kidney disease, among other health issues.
That might not be what you want to hear on the cusp of the holiday season, but it is something you need to know about, especially with November being American Diabetes Awareness Month. The good news is that those at high risk of type 2 diabetes, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is that they can fairly quickly cut their risk at least in half by healthier eating, more physical activity or exercise, and losing some weight.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Take Health Risks
Yes, this is all stuff you probably hear all the time, but good reminders to keep in mind as you get ready to stuff yourself on soon-to-arrive holiday feasts (let alone any Halloween sweet-tooth hangovers you might have). Now is as good a time as any to be proactive in doing your part to raise awareness of diabetes risk factors, encouraging your friends to park farther away at the local strip mall so you can get a few extra steps of walking in (or take the stairs instead of the elevator). Also take the time to gently remind at-risk acquaintances – they are hard to miss – about getting regular checkups, but doing it in such a way you don’t alienate or annoy them (too much).
What Does Diabetes Entail?
Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s cells aren’t getting sufficient glucose to metabolize into energy, per 10faq.com. It occurs when your blood glucose (aka blood sugar) is too high. Blood glucose is a primary source of energy for your body, and it is provided by the food you eat.
The two main types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, which affects mostly children and young adults and is characterized by your body’s inability to manufacture insulin, and type 2 diabetes, mostly associated with adults and involving a condition in which your body is not responding to insulin’s effects, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Signs or Symptoms of Diabetes
If you are diabetic and don’t know it, your body has numerous ways of telling you that you are either in a high-risk state or already have it.
Type 1 diabetes:
- Frequent urination. Sometimes caused by overactive kidneys attempting to eliminate excess sugar in blood, per 10faq.com.
- Increased thirst. Could be tied into frequent urination, as your body runs the risk of getting dehydrated from the excess urination described above.
- Increased hunger (especially after eating). A condition known as polyphagia, in which a lack of insulin in your body means glucose isn’t getting to your cells, which your body perceives as a need for more food.
- Blurred vision. Caused by damaged blood vessels in the eyes resulting from too much sugar/glucose in the bloodstream.
- Fatigue. Everyone gets tired at times, even when not in bed sleeping, but this is the sort of fatigue in which you lack the energy for even ordinary activities such as a short walk or doing the laundry.
Type 2 diabetes:
- Type I diabetes symptoms listed above.
- Slow-healing cuts or sores. Poor blood flow associated with increased blood glucose levels can render many of your body’s tissues undernourished and weakened. Nutrients needed for healing aren’t getting to the injury or infection site quick enough to help as they should.
- Skin itching (mostly vaginal or groin area). Also known as pruritis, per webmd.com, poor blood flow – such as that induced by excess glucose/sugar in the bloodstream – can produce a skin rash and itching, especially in the lower half of the body.
- Yeast infections. Yeast growth has been shown to flourish in the presence of increased levels of sugar, hence an enhanced environment for yeasts to thrive.
- Recent weight change. This can work either way – unexplained loss or gain, per 10faq.com. It could be the body burning up proteins that comprise muscle tissue because cells are not getting the glucose they need, and body is in survival mode; or it could be an unexpected gain from excess glucose in the blood being converted into fat which is then deposited throughout the body.
- Numbness or tingling of hands and feet. This is indicative of increased blood sugar levels, in which blood flow is inhibited, thereby affecting the nerves in your extremities.
- Headaches. Similar to the previous symptoms immediately above (numbness or tingling), the slowed blood flow caused by excess sugar in the blood can produce a rise in pressure within blood vessels, to include those in the head.
- Sexual dysfunction. The interference with blood flow can result in nerve damage, which can result in sexual organs not performing properly. Impotence and erectile dysfunction are among the issues that result.