More than 20 million Americans have diabetes, and 41 million more have pre-diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Even more alarming, 6 million Americans have diabetes and don't even know it. Could you be one of them? Diabetes, a chronic condition in which the body doesn't properly use glucose, is often the successor of pre-diabetes, a condition in which a person's glucose levels are elevated but below the range for diabetes. Typically, people with pre-diabetes-as well as those with diabetes-have no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, some potential warning signs include:
unexplained weight loss
dry, itchy skin
If you notice any of these symptoms, have a family history of diabetes, are overweight and/or age 45 or older, have high blood pressure or cholesterol or have a history of gestational diabetes, talk to your doctor about testing to detect pre-diabetes.
When uncontrolled, diabetes increases a person's risk for blindness, nonhealing wounds and kidney failure. Diabetics are also twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“The good news is that pre-diabetes and diabetes can be managed or even reversed with simple lifestyle changes,” says Richard Sachson, M.D., endocrinologist on the medical staff and director of Endocrinology at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. “Eating a balanced diet based on the new Food Pyramid, limiting carbohydrate intake, limiting sugar consumption, exercising 30 minutes a day five times a week and maintaining a healthy weight are often very effective means in battling diabetes.”