Am I Likely to Have Diabetes?
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Having certain symptoms can be a sign of diabetes, or abnormally high levels of blood glucose. In that case, it is essential to check with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine whether you have diabetes and how to treat it.
Even without symptoms, it is important to stay on top of blood sugar levels to know whether you might have a condition called prediabetes. Blood sugar levels are high in prediabetes, and diabetes can develop if blood sugar continues to increase. Symptoms are rare in prediabetes, but there are some risk factors to be aware of to know if you are likely to have prediabetes or diabetes.
Prevalence of Diabetes and Prediabetes
Prediabetes and diabetes are relatively common in the United States. Diabetes affects 13% of adults and prediabetes affects 34.5%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means nearly half of adults have high blood sugar.
Rates increase with age. In fact, 26.8% of adults 65 years and older have diabetes, and 46.6% of adults at least 65 years old have prediabetes. That means nearly 3 in 4 older adults have high blood sugar. With statistics like this, having high blood sugar seems like unless you have gotten yours tested and know for sure that it is in a healthy range.
Risk Factors for Prediabetes and Diabetes
Knowing the risk factors for diabetes can help you determine whether you are likely to have diabetes. Risk factors for prediabetes are the same. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases lists several risk factors.
These are some of the non-modifiable risk factors, or risk factors that cannot be changed.
- Age over 45 years.
- Being African American, Hispanic/Latino, Alaska Native, American Indian, Pacific Islander, or Asian American.
- Having a family history of diabetes.
- (women) having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or having had a high birth-weight baby.
These are some modifiable risk factors, or risk factors that can be changed.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Being physically inactive.
- Having high blood pressure or being on blood pressure medications.
- Having low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides.
Addressing modifiable risk factors whether or not you already have prediabetes or diabetes can not only improve blood sugar, but improve health in other ways. Losing extra weight, increasing physical activity, getting enough sleep, and choosing a more nutritious diet can all lower risk for diabetes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Diabetes Association each offer a risk test which can give you an estimate of your risk for having prediabetes or diabetes based on risk factors such as the ones listed above. The quizzes each take less than a minute to complete.
Many of the signs of diabetes are an indication of excessively high blood sugar levels or from abnormal carbohydrate metabolism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the following common signs and symptoms of prediabetes.
- Being very thirsty and urinating frequently.
- Noticing blurry vision.
- Having tingling or numb fingers or feet.
- Having wounds, such as cuts and sores, that heal slower than normal.
- Experiencing dry skin.
- Noticing a lot of infections compared to usual.
- Being very hungry and losing weight without meaning to.
You may have diabetes if you have one or more of these symptoms. It is important to remember that prediabetes or diabetes could still be present even if you do not have these symptoms.
How and When to Get Tested for Diabetes and Prediabetes
The only way to know for sure if you have prediabetes or diabetes is to get a blood sugar test or an A1C (glycated hemoglobin) test. Both of these are simple tests that can be done in standard laboratories, likely including the one where you get your other blood tests done.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Diabetes Association's Standards of Care, published in Diabetes Care, suggest the following intervals for testing A1C.
- Every six months if you have diabetes.
- Annually if you have prediabetes.
- Every three years if A1C is normal.
You should get A1C tested if you have risk factors, are over 45, or had gestational diabetes.
While getting tested for prediabetes and diabetes can be scary, it can also be empowering. If you do have high blood sugar, taking care of it as soon as possible can help you stay as healthy as possible. Managing diabetes can help prevent or delay complications, for example, while managing prediabetes can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Lark for Diabetes Care, for people with diabetes, and Lark Diabetes Prevention Program, for people with prediabetes, include personalized coaching to help establish habits that can bring about significant health improvements. From losing weight and increasing physical activity to being aware of stress and sleep patterns, Lark targets lifestyle changes that make the biggest impacts.