Thirsty? Dry mouth? Fatigued? Overweight?
Or unexplained weight loss?
Your body may be warning you about diabetes. More than 29 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, had diabetes in 2012, and a whopping 86 million Americans over age 20 had prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates that more than 25 percent of people with diabetes don’t even know they have it.
“Sometimes prediabetes and diabetes have no warning signs, which is why it’s critical people know their numbers and have an ongoing dialogue with their doctors about their risk,” explained Novant Health Presbyterian Diabetes Center Diabetes Educator Cathy Thomas, MSN, RN, CDE. When early diabetes symptoms are present they can include any of the symptoms listed below:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Frequent urinary or vaginal infections
- Unexplained weight loss, despite eating and feeling hungry
- Blurred vision
- Foot pain and numbness
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition in which the blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not enough to be called diabetes. Also known as “impaired fasting glucose” or “impaired glucose tolerance,” prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Once prediabetes progresses to diabetes, the body is unable to create or use insulin to convert blood sugar into energy for the body to use. Diabetes is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, eye problems and other serious health conditions.
“It’s common for people to have prediabetes and show no symptoms at all,” said Thomas. “Without early diagnosis and education, people simply aren’t equipped to prevent it from developing into type 2 diabetes.”
She added, “It’s important to discuss your risk factors with your physician and get tested for prediabetes if appropriate. 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.”
Who’s at risk?
The CDC and American Diabetes Association recommend testing for anyone who’s over the age of 45, and earlier if you have certain risk factors that include:
- Ethnicity – People of African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander descent have been shown to be at greater risk
- Family history of diabetes
- Inactive lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- Low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides
- History of gestational diabetes
- Diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
If you have any of the risk factors listed above, or are concerned you may have prediabetes, your doctor can check using one of several simple blood tests to measure your blood sugar. It’s important to know what your numbers mean so you can be proactive about your health and make any needed changes early. Recommended blood sugar levels are different depending on the test and include:
- A1C test – measures your average blood glucose for the past two to three months. Normal A1C is less than 5.7 percent; prediabetes is 5.7 to 6.4 percent; and diabetes is 6.5 percent or higher.
- Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test – checks your blood glucose levels after fasting for at least eight hours. Normal FPG results are lass than 100 mg/dl; prediabetes is 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl; and diabetes is 126 mg/dl or higher.
- Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) – a two-hour test that checks your blood glucose levels before and two hours after you drink a special sugary drink. Normal OGTT results are less than 140 mg/dl; prediabetes is 140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl; and diabetes is 200 mg/dl or higher.
||Less than 5.7 percent
||5.7 to 6.4 percent
|Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG)
||Less than 100
||100 to 125
|Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
||Less than 140
||140 to 199
What you can do
Once you consult with your doctor and have your blood sugar tested, you can create a plan.
“The great thing is that being proactive and catching elevated blood sugar levels before they develop into diabetes means the condition is reversible,” said Thomas. “Losing weight, exercising and cutting back on calories, sugars and carbohydrates are all great places to start for anyone – but especially people we know are at high risk.”
Take the test!
Think you could be at risk? You can take the ADA’s diabetes risk test online. It only takes 60 seconds and could save your life.
Take the diabetes risk test here »