Type 2 diabetes is a common, modern-age disease. It initially presents with few symptoms, which can be easily overlooked. One out of three people who have it don’t even know about it. As diabetes is a serious condition that can cause dangerous complications – including cardiovascular and neurological damage – it is important to detect it as soon as possible.
With the right diet, exercise regimen and, if necessary, medications, diabetes can be kept under control, and the person can continue to live a fulfilling life.
In the first part of this article, you will find out about some of the early warning signs of diabetes, so you can act on it and protect your health. In the second part you will learn about effective ways that will help you prevent type 2 diabetes.
Warning Signs of Diabetes
In 2013, over 382 million people around the world had diabetes, and 90% of them had type 2 diabetes. This is a metabolic disease, characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Production of insulin – a pancreatic hormone that usually deals with balancing blood sugar levels – is either reduced or the cells don’t respond to it properly. The following symptoms develop as a result of this:
1. Frequent urination (polyuria): If you notice that you have to urinate more often, and you wake up during the night (sometimes several times) to empty your bladder, this could be a warning sign. The kidneys start working harder to get rid of the excess glucose from the blood.
2. Excessive thirst (polydipsia): This symptom links with the previous one. As you lose more fluids, the body will try to replenish them, hence the constant need to drink.
3. Increased hunger (polyphagia): Due to extreme highs and lows in blood sugar levels, the body develops a sudden urge to eat. The cells don’t get enough glucose, so you crave it.
4. Dry mouth: You experience a lack of moisture in the mouth, which can be both unpleasant and dangerous. Dry mouth can become a breeding ground for bacteria and cause different oral and dental problems. Gum diseases are a known complication of diabetes.
5. Unexplained weight loss or weight gain: As insulin can’t get glucose into the cells, the body reacts as if it would be starving and starts using proteins from the muscles. Rapid, unexplained weight loss (10 to 20 pounds over a couple of months) is not healthy and requires further investigation. On the other hand, increased consumption of sugary foods can lead to weight gain.
6. Fatigue: Excessive tiredness can develop when body constantly compensates for the lack of glucose in the cells. It also doesn’t help if your sleep gets interrupted by the urgency to urinate. People start experiencing lower levels of energy and are chronically not feeling well. It is not uncommon to also feel irritable and in a bad mood.
Further reading: You can also read my previous article about 6 reasons you are tired all the time, in which health issues are one of them.
7. Vision problems: High blood sugar also affects the eyes. It changes the shape of the lens and eyes. As a result, your vision becomes blurry. You can see occasional flashes of light and the vision gets distorted. Initially, the changes to the eyes are reversible. However, if sugar levels stay high for a long period of time, this can cause permanent damage and can even lead to eyesight loss.
Further reading: find here more health warnings your eyes may be sending and how to protect your eyes.
8. Headaches – A headache can develop due to elevated blood sugar levels and is considered an early sign of hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). The symptom gets worse as condition worsens.
Further reading: Read my article about the top 15 causes of headaches and how to get rid of them naturally.
9. Infections, cuts and bruises that do not heal: This classic sign of diabetes is a consequence of blood vessel damage. Excessive amounts of sugar harm the veins and arteries, so they become less able to transport blood to where it is needed to repair and heal the damage.
10. Yeast infections: Since bacteria and fungi thrive in a sugary environment, infections can become more common. The most frequent ones are yeast infections, such as candida, especially vaginal candida infections in women.
Further reading: read my precious articles about top signs that you have candida infection and what to do about it, and how to treat vaginal yeast infection naturally.
11. Numbness and tingling in hands and feet: This symptom is a result of nerve damage – neuropathy – that is connected with diabetes. Tingling and numbness in arms and feet can be accompanied by burning pain and swelling. If sugar levels are not brought down, the nerve damage can become permanent and presents a serious complication of diabetes named diabetic neuropathy.
12. Skin changes: Velvety dark skin, known as achantosis nigricans, can appear on the neck, groin and armpit. You can also observe other unusual skin changes and itchiness, especially around the vaginal or groin area.
13. Sexual dysfunction: Diabetes also damages blood vessels and nerves in the sex organs, which can lead to different sexual problems. Women can experience vaginal dryness and men can have difficulty with erection. 35% to 75% of men with diabetes suffer from impotence.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, see your doctor so you can have a blood test and establish if you are indeed suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Several tests are used and they need to be repeated to give a reliable diagnosis. The fasting plasma glucose test checks your sugar levels after 8 hours of fasting. If your blood sugar is above 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) on two occasions, it means you have diabetes. Just as worrying are slightly lower values of 100 to 125 mg/dL. This is considered to be prediabetes.
9 Effective Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have “pre-diabetes” in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. People diagnosed as pre-diabetic should take it seriously and see it as a wake-up call for a change.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that these people will get diabetes since they have the time and possibility to correct their habits, and early treatment can actually return blood glucose levels to the normal range. But getting rid of unhealthy habits and developing healthier habits is your first action to improve your health.
Being diagnosed as pre-diabetic is actually an opportunity to initiate lifestyle changes to help prevent diabetes. Here are seven preliminary and essential steps that are a good way to start improving your health and reduce the risk of developing diabetes:
1. Be physically active
Being more physically active is one of the important and best changes that you should do to reduce the risk or even prevent type 2 diabetes. If it’s been a long time since the last time you’ve exercised, start gradually: replace the elevator with the stairs, do stretching while watching TV and so on.
Exercise is an integral part of the treatment plan for pre-diabetics because it lowers blood sugar levels and reduces body fat. Ideal training program should be held five times a week, 30 minutes each time. If you can’t set aside that much time at once, remember that shorter bursts of activity count too. Incorporating physical activities into your daily life is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.
2. Lose weight
Obesity is one of the main reasons of type 2 diabetes. It is important to know that you don’t necessarily need to lose dozens of pounds to see a difference and prevent diabetes. According to the American Diabetes association, reducing 7% of your body weight helps to reduce the risk of diabetes by about 58%!
It is important to lose weight to improve the health of your body and blood sugar, but the point is that you don’t have to do extreme diet that may even harm your health.
3. Don’t smoke
A research published on 2012 showed that smoking is associated with insulin resistance and inflammation. It increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and aggravates its complications. The study suggests that avoiding smoking is one of the important ways for diabetes control and preventing diabetic complications.
4. Improve sleep habits
A study from 2007 found out that short sleep duration could be a significant risk factor for diabetes. Subjects who slept 5 or fewer hours were almost twice as likely as those who slept 7 hours to have diabetes over the follow-up period.
A person who does not get enough sleep regularly will find it difficult to lose weight, and it will make it difficult for his body to use insulin more efficiently. It is advisable to adopt good sleep habits: go to bed and wake up at regular times every day, relax before turning off the lights and avoid watching too much television or using smartphone before bedtime.
If you have sleeping troubles and difficulty to fall asleep, try to avoid drinking caffeine after lunch. You can also read my articles about the best 12 herbs for insomnia and the best foods to get better sleep.
5. Get support
Weight loss, a healthy diet and physical activity on a regular basis are steps that are made easier if there are people around who support and encourage you. For example, you can join groups that include people with a similar goal to yours (e.g. weight loss group or a running group), and use them to pursue a healthy lifestyle and avoid mental and physical breaking point.
6. Improve your diet
Eating an unhealthy diet rich in red meat, unhealthy fats, sugars and processed food will increase your risk of developing diabetes. Instead, eat lots of vegetables, especially those containing less starch, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and green beans.
Add foods rich in dietary fiber to your daily menu and choose whole grain foods instead of refined and processed grains, such as brown rice instead of white rice and so on. Another step is to replace high-calorie foods with low-calorie alternatives, such as low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, low-fat salad dressing and the like (make sure to read product label to make sure you see what the other ingredients are).
Fruits are also recommended although both pre-diabetics and diabetics are sometimes concerned about eating fruits due to their reported high sugar content. However the American Diabetes Association says that overall, fruit is encouraged when using the glycemic index to guide food choices (see more information in their webpage).
You can find more information about healthy eating and nutrition in my e-book Effortless Healthy Eating which is part of the Natural Health Revolution Program. This program will help you to achieve your health, nutrition or weight loss goals.
You can also consider taking NAC (N-acetylcysteine) to control glucose levels and improve insulin resistance.
7. Reduce stress levels
A research published on PLoS One on 2017 found out that stress is a strong risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The research concluded that improving mental health and reducing stress may reduce the growing incidence of type 2 diabetes and lead to better glycaemic control.
8. Visit your doctor regularly
People diagnosed as pre-diabetic don’t always see the importance of frequent visits to their physician. However there is a great importance in medical monitoring on a frequent basis of three to six months. If your situation is good and improving, you will get reassurance from the doctor, and that has a significant value as well. If your condition does not improve, your doctor will be able to help get you back on track, or provide specific advice or medication if needed.
9. Commit yourself
Commitment to change your lifestyle is the most important key to the success of the process. You need to understand that you will not be perfect every day and that changes take time, but you must commit to do the best you can most of the time.
Crisis and challenges are part of the process of change, and you need to take this into account, allow yourself to experience these moments and come out better and stronger.