As serious as diabetes is, it seems obvious that you would know if you were headed that way. However, that is not always the case. In fact, 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes, but 90% of them do not know it. That is a problem because prediabetes is likely to progress to type 2 diabetes within years if it is not treated.
Why is prediabetes so sneaky? In most cases, it has no symptoms, and only a blood test would let you know that you have it. Uncontrolled diabetes, though, has many possible signs and symptoms.
What Are Diabetes and Prediabetes?
Diabetes is higher-than-normal blood sugar, and type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. It can be partly genetic, but is largely related to lifestyle. Treatment can include medications, weight loss, a healthy diet, and physical activity. Prediabetes is blood sugar that is higher than normal, but lower than in diabetes.
Signs That You May Have Diabetes
Prediabetes usually has no signs, but diabetes can have them. If you notice these signs, it may be time to get a blood sugar or A1C test to see you have prediabetes or diabetes.
Sign 1: Your refrigerator is empty.
Your refrigerator may be empty (or not very well stocked) because you are not preparing many meals at home. Instead, you may be eating out, or ordering in, often. All those restaurant-prepared meals may be putting you at risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Studies have found that eating more “meals prepared at home” can lower risk for type 2 diabetes compared to eating more meals prepared outside the home. That may be for a few reasons.
- Meals prepared outside the home may include more calorie-dense foods, such as fried foods, fatty foods, and starchy foods. These can raise risk for weight gain and obesity, which raises diabetes risk.
- Portions may be bigger, putting you at risk for weight gain.
- Meals prepared at home may be higher in fruits and vegetables, which can be protective against type 2 diabetes.
Sign 2: You cannot prevent an afternoon snooze.
There can be many reasons for being tired in the afternoon, and some of them may be related to diabetes. For example, it may be lack of sleep or lack of physical activity. Both of these raise diabetes risk.
Another reason for being too tired to get through an afternoon meeting may be low blood sugar after a lunch high in carbs and unhealthy fats. Cold cut sandwiches and chow mein or other noodles are examples. If you have diabetes, they can cause blood sugar to spike and then fall, leaving you tired, not to mention hungry and possibly cranky.
Sign 3: You Are BFF with Your Couch and Television
People who watch more television and sit more often have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes . Sitting for long periods of time raises insulin resistance. Watching television can have other harmful effects.
- People tend to eat high-calorie snacks while watching TV, leading to weight gain.
- Time spent watching TV is time not spent being physically active. Exercise helps reduce blood sugar and control weight.
- TV commercials can increase cravings for high-calorie foods.
Sign 4: Your alarm goes off way too early.
Actually, your alarm is fine. The problem is that you are going to bed too late. If it feels like your alarm is going off too early every day, you are probably short on sleep. That does not just zap energy, but interferes with blood sugar control.
Sleep deprivation increases insulin resistance and raises risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. It also increases hunger and makes high-carb foods more tempting. That can lead to eating oversized portions of high-calorie foods, which can lead to weight gain and further risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Sign 5: Age is catching up with you.
Are you noticing a few more gray hairs or crow’s feet? These reminders that you are getting older can be lifesaving if they make you realize that it is time to test blood sugar. Insulin resistance and your risk for diabetes naturally increase as you get older. The risk of diabetes is 4 times as high when you are 45 to 64 years old compared to what it was when under 44 years old, and 7 times as high when you are 65 or over. For prediabetes, the risk is 70% higher for ages 45-64 as compared to under 44 years old, and double for ages 65 and over.
If you have these signs of diabetes, it may be worth talking to your doctor to see whether you may have diabetes or prediabetes. Taking charge of your health now can help you maintain it as well and long as possible. Lark Diabetes Management or Lark Diabetes Prevention Program may be available to you as part of your health benefits. Please check with your health plan or review any materials they have sent you about Lark.
- Zong, Geng, David M. Eisenberg, Frank B. Hu, and Qi Sun. 2016. “Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: An Analysis of Two Prospective Cohort Studies.” PLoS Medicine 13 (7): e1002052.
- Smith, L., and M. Hamer. 2014. “Television Viewing Time and Risk of Incident Diabetes Mellitus: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.” Diabetic Medicine: A Journal of the British Diabetic Association 31 (12): 1572–76.