vegetables family dinnerBy Dale Peterson, MD – Building Health –

While it is often assumed that most people are aware of the signs of diabetes, I commonly see individuals who are unaware that they have the condition despite the presence of classic symptoms. It is therefore good to be reminded of the many changes that suggest diabetes is present.

Two symptoms that are related to each other are excessive thirst and frequent urination. As blood sugar rises the body responds by excreting excess sugar through the kidneys. Large amounts of water are required to carry the sugar out of the body, accounting for the increased thirst and urine volume.

As blood sugar rises levels of sugar also rise in the lens of the eye. This changes the focus of the lens causing vision to blur. I’ve seen several individuals who had gone through several pairs of glasses in an attempt to compensate for the visual changes without realizing that diabetes was the cause.

Diabetes can reduce the body’s ability to repair wounds. Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal can indicate that diabetes is present.

Diabetes can result from either a loss of ability to produce insulin (referred to as Type 1) or because the body has become resistant to the effects of insulin (a condition called Type 2). Type 1 often presents with sudden and unexplained weight loss.

Because Type 2 usually develops gradually it may be present for several years before it is discovered. I have seen individuals who presented with nerve damage causing numbness and tingling in their feet, something that usually occurs after the disease has been present for many years.

As important as it is to recognize the symptoms of diabetes it is even more valuable to recognize the signs and symptoms of what is sometimes referred to as pre-diabetes. The medical term for this condition is the metabolic syndrome, which results from increasing resistance to the action of insulin in the body. Recognizing that the metabolic syndrome is present gives the person an opportunity to make changes in their lifestyle that can prevent the progression to full-blown diabetes.

Signs of the metabolic syndrome include:

  • Excessive abdominal fat (defined as a waist circumference greater than 40 inches in a man or 35 inches in a woman)
  • A triglyceride level over 150 mg/dl
  • An HDL cholesterol level less than 40 in a man or 50 in a woman
  • An untreated blood pressure greater than 130/85
  • A fasting blood sugar between 110 – 125 mg/dl

If three or more of the warning signs are present an individual is considered to have the metabolic syndrome.

People with a family history of type 2 diabetes or frequent hypoglycemic episodes should be particularly are at increased risk for developing the metabolic syndrome and ultimately diabetes. The sooner lifestyle changes are implemented, the less likely the appearance of diabetes becomes.

Three treatment/prevention factors should be considered:

The first is diet. The diet should be made up predominantly of whole foods and be low in refined carbohydrates, such as white sugar, white flour, and white rice. The protein component should make up approximately a third of each meal with the remaining two thirds consisting of colorful fruits and vegetables.

The second factor that is helpful in preventing diabetes is activity. Getting the body moving and keeping it moving for thirty minutes three to five times weekly is ideal. Typical activities that accomplish this include walking, bicycling, and swimming.

Finally, nutritional supplementation should be provided. Mineral deficiencies, particularly of magnesium, chromium, and vanadium predispose to the development of the metabolic syndrome and diabetes. It is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain sufficient quantities of these minerals through diet alone.

Arrange to have your blood sugar checked if you experience any of the warning signs of diabetes. Be alert to the signs of metabolic syndrome as well. Making needed lifestyle changes early on can prevent the appearance of diabetes later in life.

Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  His book Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life was released in December 2010.

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at www.drdalepeterson.com.

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