Sneaky, Silent Diabetes

Sneaky and silent. The two adjectives might describe something you don’t like, but health care providers use these words to depict type 2 diabetes.

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or use the insulin properly—and when your body doesn’t have enough insulin, blood sugar collects in the blood stream instead of being used by the cells.

Sneaky. Type 2 diabetes is gradual. “Blood sugars increase slowly over time. You typically don’t wake up one day with a blood sugar level of 300,” says Laurie Sandberg, RN, certified diabetes educator with Meritus Endocrinology, Nutrition and Diabetes or MEND Education Center. Symptoms can be absent or mild at first and later, you may experience fatigue, weight loss, excessive thirst, constant hunger and frequent urination.

Silent. Doctors say you can have type 2 diabetes for years without knowing it. In addition to the signs mentioned above, you should pay close attention to red flags such as blurry vision, slow healing sores or frequent infections.

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be challenging at first, but with education and support, control is always possible. Understanding how to make healthy food choices, schedule physical activity into your day and monitor blood glucose are strategies that can help you keep your blood sugar numbers under control and avoid complications.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 86 million Americans are at risk for diabetes. “Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed, but you need to discover high blood sugar early,” says Laurie. Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Physicians test for prediabetes and diabetes with a fasting blood sugar test. A blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dl is considered prediabetes.

November is American Diabetes Month —a time to become more aware of your risk for the disease. Here are five steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing diabetes:

  1. Take the American Diabetes Association’s type 2 diabetes risk test. Answering seven simple questions will let you know if you’re at increased risk for having type 2 diabetes.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Change the way you eat and exercise more, reduce portion sizes and keep a record of what you eat.
  3. Eat well. Eat breakfast every day; focus on foods like leafy greens, lean protein and whole grains; and plan your weekly meals.
  4. Be active. Move throughout the day by walking at lunch, standing at your desk and using the stairs. Set an exercise goal, like taking a brisk walk every day, and find an exercise support system online or in person.
  5. Get screened for type 2 diabetes every year.

MEND offers a prediabetes prevention program and nutritional counseling for weight loss and healthier living. If you’re concerned about developing type 2 diabetes, talk to your primary care physician about programs offered by MEND. Take action now and don’t be afraid to know where you stand with diabetes.