Over the last few years I’ve made it my mission to inform and educate people about their health and wellbeing, and highlighting what they could be doing to ensure they live a long, healthy and happy life. I recently attended a seminar with some leaders in the world of type 2 diabetes, and some of the current stats shocked me. I know many of you will think you’re pretty healthy and don’t need to read this article, but humour me just a little longer and please read on...
We’ve all heard about type 2 diabetes and are aware that it is dramatically on the rise. In fact, approximately 1.4 million Australians now have the disease, and more people than ever are undergoing amputations because of diabetes complications.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lurking below the surface is a much larger group – those with pre-diabetes. These are people whose blood sugars are higher than normal, but are not yet in the diabetic range. It is a condition that has no obvious signs or symptoms, but these people are up to 15 times more likely to go on to develop type 2 diabetes and also cardiovascular (heart and circulation) disease.
2 million Australians have pre-diabetes and that’s just those that are diagnosed. Unfortunately, this disease is massively undiagnosed, as many people with pre-diabetes are unaware that they fall into this group and therefore are not getting checked. Approximately 1 in 3 people with pre-diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
The reason I felt so compelled to write this article is because a disturbance to your insulin sensitivity can happen to anyone, even if you think you’re leading a healthy life. It happened to me, and I didn’t think I had any risk factors at all for type 2 diabetes until I learned that chronic stress and sleep issues were also a risk factor.
So, could you be at risk of pre-diabetes? In today’s society we are all at risk, but you are at greater risk than the average person if:
you are overweight or obese
you store fat around your middle, even if your weight is normal – a waist measurement of less than 102cm for men and 88cm for women.
you are largely inactive and sit for much of the time
you have a close family history of type 2 diabetes
your ethnic background is Aboriginal, Asian, Middle Eastern or from the Pacific Islands
you are a women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
you have high blood pressure or a poor cholesterol profile
you had gestational diabetes while pregnant or have given birth to a big baby (more than 4.5kg)
you have a history of chronic stress and sleep deprivation
Pre-diabetes generally doesn’t have any signs or symptoms, but if you notice one of more of the following, it is important to inform your doctor and get your sugars checked. Note that you can be pre-diabetic without showing any of the signs below and also that other health conditions can show these signs as well.
1. Regular Exhaustion
Busy, active people get tired naturally because of physical activity. A pre-diabetic person, on the other hand, can feel tired without physical exertion and even when well-rested, they continue to feel fatigued. Pre-diabetics may feel especially tired after meals.
2. Unexpected Weight Increases
An increase in blood sugar levels has a direct relation to body fat. If you gain weight without overeating or for no apparent reason, it’s possible pre-diabetes is to blame and even reducing calories and exercising more may not help if this is the cause.
3. Excessive Hunger
Pre-diabetes can cause people to feel excessive hunger, and feeling genuinely hungry again soon after a filling meal. Cravings for sugary foods can also be an indication.
Finding out and then taking positive action matters, because having persistently high blood sugar levels, even if they are not yet in the diabetic range, will damage blood vessels and leave you at greater risk of stroke, heart disease and dementia.
I have several clients who came to me originally because they were diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Many are shocked at their diagnosis as they exercised and were convinced they ate healthily. Others cut out sugar and started to exercise and were surprised to see that they didn’t lose much weight, if any.
The good news is that this situation can be reversed. The changes needed often aren’t drastic. Education and a little guidance as to what will actually work to bring your insulin sensitivity back to where it needs to be is often all that is needed to nip it in the bud and avoid the progression to type 2 diabetes and a lifetime of medication. As a nutrition coach, I find it incredibly satisfying helping people to take control rather than having to rely on medication.