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Signs That You May Have Diabetes

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. As with most medical conditions, if the diagnosis is delayed, treatment will be delayed. This can have an effect on your overall health and lifespan. Some of us don’t know when we may be at risk. Here are some tips for when to seek testing for diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms

We have all heard of people who were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when their blood sugar was found to be through the roof or their organs started to fail. Before such severe symptoms appear, more subtle ones may be present. New darkening of the skin on your neck, under arms or groin can be a sign. Also if you find yourself urinating more frequently and/or significantly thirstier than usual, see a primary care provider for evaluation. As a gynecologist, I can’t ignore the occasional correlation between frequent yeast infections and diabetes. These infections are common, but diabetes is not typically the culprit.

Risk Factors

Being overweight or obese automatically puts you at risk for diabetes, regardless of family history. Anything over 25 on a body mass index is considered overweight; over 30 is considered obese. Though I concede that BMI calculations can be slightly skewed depending on ethnicity, for the purposes of screening, we all should take heed to the classifications. Having a first-degree relative with diabetes, having high blood pressure or cholesterol, and having had diabetes in pregnancy or previously delivering a baby over 9 pounds are all reasons to be checked out.

Screening Guidelines

Without any risk factors, the average person should begin screened for diabetes starting at age 45. This screening generally should occur every 3 years. However, many people have at least 1 risk factor for diabetes as noted previously. These people should be screened at any age and at regular intervals. Being African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American also elevate a person’s risk.

Management

Weight loss is the main determinant for reducing diabetes risks. I’m not talking about dropping half of your body weight either. Even a 5% weight reduction can lower your risks by as much as 50%. A 200 lb woman who loses 10 pounds can significantly reduce her chances of developing the disease. This is best accomplished by increasing physical activity and decreasing consumption of calories from fat. A wise patient of mine once told me, “you cannot outrun a bad diet.” If this means consulting a dietician or other healthcare provider, you should do your best to make healthy food and drink choices. An entire workout can be erased by one bad meal.

Type 2 diabetes is one health problem that can be modified or even eliminated if you are aware and can make lifestyle changes. When we know better, we can do better.

Wendy MD

Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald is a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in the city of Chicago. She is a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and is always accepting new patients. Learn more at www.loopobgyn.com.