Do you struggle with abdominal cramps, bloating, back pain or headaches around your periods or are your periods irregular?
Have you been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)? What about darkening of skin around the neck, elbows and armpit? For most of us women, this is not uncommon and we end up trying many skin cures to fix it. Would you believe that both these symptoms could be early signs of diabetes in women?
Women who experience either PCOS and skin darkening are often insulin resistant – a condition that leads to impaired glucose absorption. This, in turn, could be a precursor to diabetes. Unfortunately, often because they are pressed for time, doctors may miss these early warning signals.
The United States is home to about 86 million people above the age of 20 who are ‘prediabetic’. It is the state you find yourself in just before you get full-blown diabetes. Detecting symptoms early can help save us women a lifetime of trouble.
- What Is Diabetes?
- What Does Being Prediabetic Mean?
- What Are The First Warning Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
- How Is Prediabetes Diagnosed?
- Should Everyone Get Tested For Diabetes or Prediabetes?
- Checklist of Risk Factors For Prediabetes And Diabetes
- The Consequences of Ignoring Prediabetes
- How To Control Early Signs of Diabetes In Women
- Worth Reading?
What Is Diabetes?
In a nutshell, diabetes is the presence of excessive sugar in the blood. This can occur due to either of these reasons:
- The body is not producing enough of the hormone ‘insulin’, which keeps a tab on blood sugar levels (type 1 diabetes)
- The body cells are not being receptive to using the produced insulin (type 2 diabetes or ‘insulin resistance’).
What Does Being Prediabetic Mean?
Those who do not fall under the World Health Organization’s (WHO) defined range of diabetes (blood sugar above 126mg/dL), but are very close to it (100-125 mg/dL) are termed as prediabetic. These are persons who are at a high risk of developing diabetes soon if they do not take immediate steps to avert it. Prediabetes is usually present for many years before a person is diagnosed with diabetes.
What Are The First Warning Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
- Excessive hunger or thirst (dry mouth)
- Frequent urination
- Cuts and wounds that heal slowly
- Recurrent chest / urinary infections
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
These are warning signs that should not be ignored. A timely change in your lifestyle can help you avert a lifelong drill of medications and injections, not to mention sugar-free foods!
How Is Prediabetes Diagnosed?
Although there are no clear prediabetes symptoms, it can easily be diagnosed by a simple blood test that measures your blood glucose level. Finger-prick devices used at your healthcare provider’s office are not an accurate indicator of diabetes and should be avoided. Hike down to your nearest pathology laboratory and get that nagging worry cleared for once and for all.
Should Everyone Get Tested For Diabetes or Prediabetes?
You should talk to your doctor about getting tested if you are –
- Below 45 years of age.
- Either obese or overweight.
- Having one or more of the risk factors mentioned below.
Checklist of Risk Factors For Prediabetes And Diabetes
Prediabetes cannot be identified without a blood test. However, here is a checklist of risk factors that make you a likely candidate for prediabetes and diabetes.
Sedentary lifestyle habits such as watching television for prolonged hours or a job that demands little or no movement all day have a strong association with obesity and diabetes.
Family history of diabetes
Studies show that women having a family history of diabetes tend to have a higher chance of developing diabetes.
Overweight or obese women belonging to African American, Alaska native, American Indian, Asian American Hispanic/Latino or Pacific Islander American ethnic groups are more likely to have prediabetes or diabetes as compared to white American women and native African women.
High blood pressure
A systolic pressure of 130mm Hg or higher and a diastolic pressure of 90mm Hg or higher are classified as high blood pressure and require medication or dietary changes to be under control.
History of gestational diabetes
The presence of gestational diabetes (diabetes developed during pregnancy) increases the risk of developing prediabetes.
This skin condition affects skin folds of the body such as the armpits, the groin, neck folds and joints of fingers and toes. The skin becomes dark, thick and velvety with creases and markings. This condition is generally found in people with obesity-related Type 2 diabetes.
High-density lipoprotein (or HDL cholesterol), commonly known as the good cholesterol, is low and LDL cholesterol, or the bad cholesterol, is high in many people who are prediabetic.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Women suffering from PCOS tend to be at a high risk of developing diabetes and may be prediabetic.
The presence of one or more of these risk factors, along with being overweight or obese, is a fair indicator of possible prediabetes.
All women over 45 years of age, having one or more of the risk factors that cause diabetes should strongly consider getting themselves tested for diabetes.
You should also consider learning how to test for diabetes at home, on your own, after consulting with your physician. It involves taking blood sugar level readings through a glucometer and maintaining a chart for ready reference.
The Consequences of Ignoring Prediabetes
If you notice early-diabetes symptoms in the women in your life, please remember that lifestyle modification holds the key to diabetes prevention. Unmanaged prediabetes has high chances of transforming into diabetes if it is ignored for too long. Following are some of the complications that result from ignoring prediabetes:
Nephropathy means damage to the kidneys. It is a condition where blood vessels that filter waste in the kidneys are destroyed due to high blood sugar.
Eye diseases such as diabetic macular edema (DME), diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma affect people with diabetes. If left untreated, these can cause permanent vision loss.
Prediabetes increases the risk of developing macrovascular diseases like stroke (paralysis) or heart attack.
How To Control Early Signs of Diabetes In Women
Watch your weight
Losing weight is a sure-shot way of treating prediabetes. A healthy body weight helps to lower insulin resistance and manage prediabetes.
Include 5-6 portions of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet. Limit the consumption of fats and sweets to 1-2 portions a day.
Staying active uses up the glucose made by your body. Thus, it cannot pile up and cause problems in the future. Additionally, exercise is the most underrated mood elevator of our time. Inculcate the habit of a moderate workout routine for at least half an hour each day.
Heal your heart
Managing high blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels go a long way in treating prediabetes. Have a heart-healthy lifestyle and learn to manage your stress levels.
If you smoke, quit now. Smoking is dangerous and boosts insulin resistance.
Stock up on some supplements
Certain dietary supplements help deal with excess glucose in our system. Dietary supplements are safer than glucose-lowering medicines and reduce the need for medication.
An intake of 1000mg/day of vitamin C is known to improve insulin sensitivity in people with Type 2 diabetes. It is easily absorbed by the body. Vitamin C with flavonoids may enhance its benefits.
Doctors have used vitamin E to prevent heart diseases for years. It is an antioxidant and helps curtail damage belted out by free radicals. A dose of 400-600 International Units (IU) taken once a day can be taken for up to 8 years. It even helps to unclog the arteries, reduce damage done to eyes due to diabetes and averts complications, like foot ulcers, that emerge over time in diabetics.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Naturally found in animal protein and spinach, it is known to lower glucose levels and improve insulin function. It works through its anti-inflammatory property and by mimicking the action of insulin in the body. 600 mg of ALA showed improvements in fasting sugars (link to fasting blood sugar), insulin sensitivity as well as LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.
If you show some of the early signs of diabetes, take home some of the pearls shared above and get a grip on your glucose as soon as possible!
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