Could you have diabetes and not even know? | Dr. Petter

One in 10 people now have diabetes. By the year 2050, the incidence is expected to surge to one in three. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and for the most part it is preventable.

Diabetes Type II (adult onset) is increasing in our country due to poor diet, lack of activity or sedentary life style, our rapidly increasing aging population, and more diabetes who are living longer.

Symptoms of Diabetes may be subtle. An individual could have this disease for years and not even realize it. As a matter of fact, of the 24 million people estimated to have diabetes, 25 percent are not even aware they actively have this disease. Typical symptoms consist of fatigue, frequent infections or poor wound healing, polyuria (needing to urinate frequently), polydypsia (drinking excessive amount of fluids in an attempt to quench thirst), blurred vision. Women also may experience frequent vaginal yeast infections.

Diabetes has potentially serious consequences. Over time, diabetes can lead to kidney problems, blindness, nerve damage, heart problems as a result of developing high blood pressure and/or coronary artery disease (plaque build-up on the inside of blood vessels as a result of high cholesterol values).

Diabetes also causes poor circulation and/or compromised blood flow, which can lead to limb amputation. In addition, a diabetic is at increased risk for developing osteoporosis, hearing problems and Alzheimer’s disease.

There are many risk factors for diabetes. A person is more likely to develop diabetes if they are overweight, obese and/or inactive. If you have a family member with this disease, you are more likely to develop it over time. Additional risk factors include: age over 45 and certain ethnic origins (i.e., African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American), if already “pre-diabetic.” Women who had diabetes during pregnancy also are at risk.

What can you do to actively decrease your chance of developing diabetes? See your doctor once a year for a physical and have a simple blood test to check your blood sugar level (glucose). Depending upon the laboratory used, blood sugar should be less than 100. Next, do those things proven to directly decrease your chance of developing diabetes. Exercise (aerobic activity such as fast walking, jogging and/or swimming) for at least 30 minutes, five to seven days a week. Know your BMI (body mass index), and maintain your ideal weight range. Focus on a healthy diet, eating plenty of fruits, vegetable, fiber, protein, and dairy products. Do not take-in excessive amounts of carbohydrates (i.e., bread, pasta, rice, potatoes) and sweets. Carbohydrate intake for a healthy, average-activity-level adult is 180 to 230 grams a day.

Lastly, two additional tips may also help decrease your blood sugar. Consider taking four teaspoons of white vinegar every day. Vinegar can decrease your blood sugar by as much as 30 percent. Also, consider taking cinnamon (one-fourth teaspoon twice a day), which may lower your blood sugar as well.

Dr. Linda Petter, of Auburn, is a weekly feature on the ABC affiliate KOMO TV / News Radio in Seattle (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) every Sunday live 7:45 am, and a weekly columnist for the Auburn Reporter newspaper. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is Chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. Her second book, Healthcare On a Budget, is available on 

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