By: Alonso Chavarriaga
Despite all of the health movements and focus on eating better, diabetes continues to be on the rise. There is a new diabetes diagnosis every seven minutes, and by 2020, it’s estimated that one out of two people will be diagnosed with either diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Diabetes: The Hidden Disease
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, believes it’s crucial to understand the connection between diabetes and your heart’s health, and equally important to make lifestyle choices that will reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Sadly, around 28 percent of people who have diabetes don’t even know it. More than 8 million people in the United States who suffer from diabetes have not even been diagnosed.
There are three ways to test for diabetes, and it’s up to your physician to decide which method will work best.
- A1C: This test measures your average glucose levels in the blood for the past two to three months. This can be comfortable for the patient since there are no special fasting instructions.
- FPG: Fasting Plasma Glucose is the name given to this test because you cannot eat or drink anything except water eight hours prior to the test.
- OGTT: The third method, called the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, is a two-hour long test that measures your baseline glucose levels, then measures glucose levels again two hours after drinking a sweet drink to see how your body processes glucose.
Each of these tests are a great way to find out if you have diabetes, but it can be more difficult to detect pre-diabetes. A common misconception is that with pre-diabetes, you have yet to encounter problems. But, the truth is your body is actually already having problems with insulin resistance, and probably has been for a long time. If it goes untreated, pre-diabetes will eventually become type-2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, “without intervention, pre-diabetes is likely to become type-2 diabetes in 10 years or less.”
So what are the signs and symptoms of pre-diabetes? Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to detect since it may not present as anything other than low-level fatigue. By the time your blood sugar gets high enough to become type-2 diabetes, symptoms can be easier to spot. Frequent thirst and urination is a common symptom, because extra sugar spills into your urine, causing you to visit the bathroom more often.
Overall, pre-diabetes is especially difficult to diagnose since it can feel like the regular symptoms of everyday life where you work hard and come home feeling tired.
The Relationship Between Diabetes and Heart Disease
Diabetes can be dangerous by itself, but its implications on your cardiovascular system are also worth noting. Most people don’t know that someone with type-2 diabetes has a 2-4 times increased risk of having a heart attack.
When visiting a physician, so much effort is spent focusing on the blood glucose numbers that other parameters become easily ignored.
“Understand it’s more global than just the blood sugar number,” says Weisenberger. The “ABCs of diabetes care,” as Weisenberger puts it, should include A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Since heart disease is the number-one killer in the United States among both men and women, it should not be ignored.
Start making the right lifestyle choices today by eating foods that don’t negatively affect your heart. Some of Weisenberger’s favorites include healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, avocado, peanut butter, and almond butter. You should also eat healthy carbs like fruit, and high-quality whole grains including oatmeal and quinoa.
In the accompanying audio segment, Jill Weisenberger, MS explains the importance of making the right lifestyle choices now before you develop diabetes.