Know diabetes’ early warning signs to live a healthy, long life

Blog01PharmaAdvantage-Measuring-Blood-SugarWriter Dan Fleshler was unnerved to discover he would continue to lead a long, healthy life despite having lived 53 years with diabetes.

When he was first diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, he wrote recently in an essay in The New York Times, physicians’ prognoses for those with diabetes were very different than they are today. Fleshler noted he’s one of about 5,000 diabetics who received a medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center to celebrate surviving 50 years after diagnosis.

Whether a person has diabetes – insulin-dependent Type I, insulin-resistant Type 2, or gestational diabetes – treatments and outcomes trend toward positive.

But there’s one stumbling block that medical advances and physicians can’t overcome – inattention.

Americans’ lifestyles – specifically poor diet and lack of exercise – have contributed to an increase in diabetes’ diagnoses. From 1980 to 2013, the crude incidence of diagnosed diabetes increased from 3.3 to 7.1 per 1,000 population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But that’s not the bad news because, again, the approximately 21 million diagnosed diabetics have treatment options that lessen complications and increase life expectancy.

The bad news is more than eight million diabetics have not been diagnosed, the CDC estimates. The number is expected to increase.

A recent CDC study reported about 40% of the adult U.S. population are now expected to develop diabetes during their lifetimes. The major study, “Trends in Lifetime Risk and Years of Life Lost Due to Diabetes in the USA, 1985–2011: A Modeling Study,” published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, noted that the numbers look even worse for some ethnic minority groups:

  • One in two (more than 50%) of Hispanic men and women and non-Hispanic black women are predicted to develop the disease.
  • Over the 26 years of study, the lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes for the average American 20-year-old rose from 20% for men and 27% for women between 1985 and 1989, to 40% for men and 39% for women between 2000 and 2011. The largest increases were in Hispanic men and women, and non-Hispanic black women, for whom lifetime risk now exceeds 50%.
  • The lifetime risk of developing diabetes is the same for men and women.

However, the study’s authors underscored the increasingly positive lifestyles and longer life expectancy for diabetics. Early diagnosis is the best way to ensure diabetes doesn’t shorten or decrease the quality of life.

Consult your physician if you have any of these five signs of diabetes:

  1. Frequent urination
  2. Excessive thirst
  3. Unexplained weight loss
  4. Extreme hunger
  5. Sudden vision changes

Other warning signs include: Tingling or numbness in hands or feet, feeling very tired much of the time, very dry skin and sores that are slow to heal.

Healthy eating, physical activity and insulin injections are the tenets to controlling type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Physicians and other health care providers educate and guide those with diabetes to making the choices that lead to their continued health.

But the first step is to understand, and pay attention to, the warning signs.