Early Warning Signs of Diabetes: Are You at Risk?

Up to 74 million Americans are walking around with undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes, putting them at risk for a wide range of dangerous complications, from a heart attack or stroke to Alzheimer’s disease (which has been called “type 3 diabetes”) and even pancreatic cancer.

In fact, it’s very common for people to find out that they have the blood sugar disease after they’ve already suffered a heart attack or stroke, reports Bradley Bale, MD, medical director of the Heart Health Program for Grace Clinic in Lubbock, Texas.

“Patients often chalk this double whammy up to bad luck or coincidence, but actually, about 70 percent of heart attacks have the same root cause as type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance,” says Dr. Bale.

The good news, however, is that if diabetes is detected and treated early, not only can serious complications—including heart attacks and strokes—be prevented, but in some cases, it’s even possible to reverse the disease itself, adds Dr. Bale.  

Here are 10 early warning signs to watch for.

Need to Know: What Causes Diabetes? 

High Blood Pressure

Insulin resistance is also the #1 cause of high blood pressure (a reading of 140/90 or higher), a problem that now affects 67 million Americans, 36 million of whom don’t have their condition under control, as I recently reported. Another 67 million have prehypertension (a reading of 120/80 or higher), which can also herald insulin resistance.

A large waistline, even if your weight is normal

Having a big belly and apple-shaped body is the leading indicator of insulin resistance. For men, the danger zone is a waist measurement of more than 40 inches, and for women, more than 35 inches. Research suggests that the best way to banish belly fat and improve insulin sensitivity is interval training several times a week.

Gum Disease

People with periodontal disease are likely to have increasingly abnormal results on blood sugar tests, compared to those without gum disease, even when other diabetes risk factors were taken into an account, according to a 5-year study of nearly 3,000 adults.

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Hearing Impairment

A 2012 analysis of 13 prior studies reports that hearing impairment is up to 2.6 times more common in diabetics than those without the disease. The researchers suggest that high blood sugar, which damages nerves and blood vessels throughout the body, may explain the link.

Yellow Nails

Up to 50 percent of diabetics have yellowish nails, with the big toe most likely to have this discoloration, a study published in Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine reports.

Erectile Dysfunction

Dr. Bale advises men who frequently experience this issue to be checked for diabetes, which can damage blood vessels in the penis.

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Frequent Yeast Infections

In women, recurring yeast infections rank as one of the leading early signs of diabetes, mainly because sugar makes it easier for bacteria to proliferate. Women with diabetes may also have more vaginal or urinary tract infections. Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal are another common symptom.

High Triglycerides

This lipid abnormality is frequently associated with insulin resistance and diabetes. Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol are also a risk factor.

Intense Hunger or Thirst

Both of these symptoms, along with increased urination, are classic signs of diabetes.  However, these may not occur during the early stages, cautions Dr. Bale.

You Feel Fine

Diabetes can be a stealthy condition, adds Dr. Bale. “Symptoms may not start until relatively late in the disease when it’s already done silent, possibly irreversible damage, so the best way to tell if your blood sugar is high to get a 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test, the gold standard of accuracy for diagnosis. If you think you don’t have time for a 2-hour test to find out if you’re at risk, do you have time to have diabetes 24 hours a day?”

Incredible Tattoos Inspired by Diabetes

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