There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, which usually develops in childhood; type 2, which is more likely in adulthood but is increasingly being diagnosed in children; and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
Why does it matter?
Based on the statistics above, diabetes is more common than you might think. Undetected diabetes is also common—one in four people with diabetes don’t know they have it—and when you don’t know you have it, diabetes can quickly get out of control.
Over time, the disease can significantly damage your heart, eyes, kidneys and blood vessels, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputation. Gestational diabetes can cause birth complications, negatively impact the health of your newborn and increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. Detecting diabetes early is the best way to prevent painful, debilitating and costly damage to your body.
Dr. Eric L. Johnson explains, “Now is a good time to visit with your health care provider to assess your diabetes risk and to be screened appropriately for proper treatment and avoidance of future diabetes complications.”
What are the symptoms?
- Increased hunger or thirst
- Frequent urination
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Sudden weight loss
- Numb or tingling hands or feet
- Blurry vision
- Sexual problems
- Urinary tract and vaginal infections
If you have any of these symptoms, ask your health care provider if it might be diabetes.
How can I prevent diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually develops in childhood. Currently, we do not know of any way to prevent type 1 diabetes; however, we can prevent life-threatening reactions by catching and treating it early.
Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes can often be prevented by making positive lifestyle choices like eating nutritious foods, developing an exercise routine and working toward a healthy weight. Here are some other prevention tips:
- Good fats, such as those found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds are excellent choices in small servings. Sub them in for saturated fats, which come mainly from meat and dairy and make our body work harder to control blood sugar.
- With as little as a seven percent weight loss, you may be able to cut your risk of diabetes in half.
- Skip the sugar. In one study, women who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day had an 83 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one per month.
- Diets rich in natural, fiber-containing foods may help protect against diabetes. Substitute brown rice for white, use whole wheat pasta, and choose fruits and veggies for sides and snacks.
- As little as 30 minutes of walking five days a week can help prevent diabetes.
Even with proper information, taking action and prioritizing change while maintaining happiness (and stress level) is no easy task.
Altru’s Diabetes Center serves patients, families and providers in our region through education, leadership, advocacy, and research in diabetes, health promotion and preventive services. It includes physicians, nurses and diabetes educators who help people diagnosed with diabetes manage medications and control the disease.
Altru’s Registered Dietitians are here to help you prevent or manage diabetes. Together, you can learn what changes might help you improve your energy level, feel better and prevent complications down the road. The perfect plan for wellness and prevention is not one you’ll find in a book. It’s the one you’re able to stick to and enjoy for the long run. Creating a plan that works for you—that’s what Altru’s dietitians are all about.
If you could benefit from meeting with a dietitian to prevent diabetes, or with any of the education center staff to expand your knowledge or get a fresh start with managing your diabetes, please don’t hesitate to call us or ask your physician for a referral.
John Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.