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How Do I Know if I’m at Risk for Diabetes?

February 19, 2020

Many people know that gaining weight or being sedentary can lead to diabetes. Evaluating whether you’re at risk for diabetes, or whether you’ve already developed it, can be a bit more complicated though.

Interested in learning more about how to detect its signs? Here’s how to get started:

Assess Your Risk Factors

First off, let’s break down what diabetes is. This common disease occurs when your blood glucose (or blood sugar) level becomes elevated. While there are two main types of diabetes — type 1 and type 2 — the latter occurs later in life and often is associated with lifestyle choices. 

Secondly, even if you exercise, eat right and maintain a healthy body weight, it’s possible to develop diabetes. Why? Some people are simply genetically predisposed to the disease. That said, it’s far more likely for people who fall into at-risk categories to develop diabetes than those who make daily healthy choices. Your chances of developing diabetes increase if you meet any of the following criteria, according to the American Diabetes Association

  • You’re 45 or older

  • You’re overweight or obese

  • You don’t exercise regularly

  • You have high blood pressure 

  • You have low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides

  • You’ve experienced gestational diabetes (or diabetes during pregnancy)

  • You’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome

  • You have a parent or sibling with diabetes

  • You identify as Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander

Although some of these risk factors are unchangeable, many can be controlled. From diet to weight to exercise, you have the power to prevent diabetes. 

Look for Your Warning Signs

The idea of having undiagnosed and untreated type 2 diabetes can be worrisome for anyone. Without access to the care you need for this condition, you could potentially be left in a dangerous situation. Fortunately, there are several common signs that could indicate that you’ve developed diabetes. While these symptoms won’t manifest the same way for everyone, here are a few things to keep an eye out for:

  • Increased thirst

  • Increased appetite

  • Unexplained weight loss 

  • Having to urinate frequently 

  • Slow healing wounds 

  • An onset of blurry vision 

  • Elevated blood sugar levels, even if they’re mildly elevated

  • Fatigue and/or irritability

If you consistently experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Calculate Your Risk

More than 7 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Those who have uncontrolled diabetes for many years may experience a range of complications. In fact, untreated diabetes can damage the eyes and kidneys, as well as cause a heart attack or stroke. 

If there’s any indication you may have diabetes, you should always get screened. Whether you’ve put on some extra pounds, ditched the diet, developed concerns about your family’s health history or another reason, don’t hesitate to call your doctor’s office and schedule a blood test. Even if you don’t have diabetes now, there are risk factors that can lead to elevated sugars in your future. By learning about your risk for this disease ahead of time, you and your doctor can make a plan to steer you away from developing it in the first place.

And Some Good News

Understandably, some patients try to ignore or explain away their symptoms of diabetes. They also may put off going to the doctor, perhaps so they don’t have to face up to the fact that they have prediabetes or diabetes. If this sounds like you, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, but that it’s time to take back control over your health. 

Many times, simple changes to your lifestyle can prevent or even reverse diabetes. By going for a daily walk or jog, cutting back on carbohydrates and sugar, eating more fruits and vegetables, and living more mindfully in general, you may find that there’s no risk you can’t tackle head on.

Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Services

The Orlando Health Physician Associates Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Services includes: Diabetes Program Classes, Type 2 Diabetes Adult Support Group and Nutrition Counseling.

Learn More