Diabetes is referred to as a “silent killer” because it does not occur overnight. It is a silent, insidious disease that can creep up on you so subtly that you may not notice it. It is especially difficult to avoid added sugars with the increasing proliferation of sugar and sweeteners added to foods. Many foods that you wouldn’t think of as “sweet” have a surprising amount of sugar added to them. Even something as seemingly insignificant as drinking one soda or fruit juice per day can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes by up to 80%.
Diabetes damage can begin with ‘pre-diabetes’ blood sugar levels, so even if you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, you may still be at high risk for diabetes complications like heart disease, kidney or nerve disease, or eye disease.
The following are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes:
- Being overweight—even if only 5-10 pounds overweight—can have serious consequences.
- Consuming a high carbohydrate diet, even if you believe you are avoiding added sugars.
- Consuming sugary drinks, energy drinks, or other ostensibly healthy foods with added sugars.
- Having reached the age of 45.
- Having a diabetic relative.
- African, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander ancestry.
- If you have ever been pregnant, you may have gestational diabetes.
- High blood pressure (140/90) or even borderline hypertension.
- LDL cholesterol levels above 150, HDL levels below 35, and triglyceride levels of 250 or higher.
Diabetes can have no visible symptoms or symptoms that you would never associate with high blood sugar. Because symptoms differ from person to person and in severity, there can be a wide range of unusual health symptoms that are unique and individual.
One of the most important things to understand about diabetes and high blood sugar is that there is no line in the sand beyond which you will experience health problems.
Consider diabetes and high blood sugar levels to be on a spectrum, with optimal blood sugar levels consistently in the 70s and 80s and HbA1C levels below 5%.
When these levels begin to rise above that, you’ve entered the diabetes risk zone and opened the door to the damage that high blood sugar can cause.
“Borderline” Diabetes & Pre-Diabetes are extremely dangerous…
Pre-diabetes and borderline high blood sugar are not healthy situations. Damage to your heart, blood vessels, and organs begins once you reach the ‘pre-diabetic’ stage. According to studies, nearly two-thirds of people treated to the emergency room for heart attacks already had diabetes. Any increase in blood sugar levels over acceptable levels raises the risk of a heart attack.
Pre-diabetes, in fact, can kill you before you’re diagnosed with diabetes, through heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
So, if you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, don’t think there’s nothing to be concerned about until you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.
Early indications of diabetes abound, but they’re sometimes so subtle that they go unnoticed.
Blood sugar levels might gradually rise, and the symptoms may go unnoticed or be so subtle and slow that you don’t notice. But it isn’t something that happens overnight. “In its early or even middle stages, most people are unaware that they have diabetes,” says Aaron Cypess, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and staff physician at Joslin Diabetes Center. However, if you pay attention to your body’s signals, you may be able to detect rising blood sugar levels in time to potentially reverse the harm.
These are some of the most prevalent (yet often overlooked) signs of high blood sugar:
1. Urinating a lot and having a lot of thirst
While there are numerous causes for thirst and urination, including the environment, exercise, dehydration, food, medicine, and so on, if it occurs on a frequent basis, it may be time to pay attention.
When the body can no longer properly lower blood sugar, larger quantities of glucose circulate in the system, which your body helps to eliminate by flushing it out through urine.
Of course, frequent urination leads to an increase in thirst. But don’t reach for the sweet drink or fruit juice—you’ll only make things worse!
2. Hungry and irritable
Blood sugar levels tend to fluctuate when the body is unable to efficiently regulate them. A blood sugar surge is usually followed by a collapse, resulting in shakiness, hunger, and irritation. This increases cravings for additional carbs or sugary meals, and many people believe that consuming more carbs/sugary meals is the best approach to alleviate their blood sugar drop.
This sets in motion a vicious cycle that might lead to an increase in blood sugar levels over time.
In fact, eating low carbohydrate diets and high protein/healthy fats is the greatest method to keep blood sugar stable. This eliminates the ‘hangries’ and helps to prevent future glucose fluctuations.
3. Energy deficiency
Blood sugar fluctuations might result in a severe lack of energy. Sugary and starchy foods may provide a momentary boost, but the accompanying drop in blood sugar might make it feel like you’re always trudging through quicksand. This can lead to the body’s inability to metabolize energy from the meals you eat over time.
A drop in energy can also make it harder to get out and exercise, which can lead to weight gain, which is another risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.
4. Angry or sad mood
Blood sugar fluctuations can not only make you feel ill, but they can also lead to depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Too much sugar and starch can upset your gut bacteria, which produces a significant amount of serotonin, a brain chemical that makes you feel happy and peaceful. And, in most cases, when your body is ill, your brain detects it and you feel ‘terrible.’
So pay attention if you’re experiencing despair, worry, or irritability—your body might be trying to tell you something.
5. Healing takes time
Again, this is one of those things that might develop gradually, to the point where you may not notice it. Slow healing and a proclivity to develop inflammation or infections are both signs of high blood sugar.
What is meant by “slow healing”? Most cuts and scrapes will heal in a week to ten days if they are small. It’s important testing blood sugar levels and getting your wounds treated if it takes 2-3 weeks or more and remains red, swollen, and possibly infected.
6. Infections of the yeast and the urinary tract
Sugar levels in the body that are higher than normal can fuel yeast infections like Candida, as well as some harmful bacteria. Candida organisms thrive on glucose, so everything you eat and drink could be helping to spread the infection. Candida can be found in a person’s digestive tract and vaginal area, although they are generally maintained in check.
Candida overgrowth is usually a sign that your immune system and possibly your blood sugar levels are out of whack. Bacteria and yeast that ordinarily would not live are also fed by glucose in the urine. Recurrent urinary tract infections, as well as frequent or chronic yeast infections, are indications that you should see a doctor.
7. Vision is blurry
Vision can become hazy long before blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the eye, causing diabetic retinopathy.
Higher-than-normal glucose levels in the early stages of diabetes or pre-diabetes can cause blood to thicken and build up in the eye, momentarily altering its shape and making it difficult to focus. While this can be a long-term problem, it can also occur simply after consuming a high-carb meal, sugary drink, or dessert.
Once blood sugar is under control and stabilized, the blurriness will go away, although it may take 3 to 6 months.
8. Tingling sensations in the hands or feet
Sugar levels that are too high can lead to issues long before you discover you have diabetes. Mild nerve injury is one of them, and it might produce numbness in your feet or hands. Nerve injury comes from a lack of blood flow and oxygen because high hyperglycemia destroys small peripheral capillaries in the hands and feet.
The sensation of being on pins and needles in your hands and feet can indicate nerve damage long before you notice your blood sugar is out of control. Nerve injury is extremely dangerous and must be treated immediately before sensation is lost. Increased injuries, slower healing times, and infection, all of which can lead to amputations, can all be caused by a loss of sensation.
9. Gums that are bleeding
If you find yourself cleaning your teeth normally but spitting blood, you may have a blood sugar problem. Blood sugar levels that are higher than normal might promote bacteria to thrive in the mouth and gums, resulting in sensitive, swollen, inflamed areas that bleed when you brush or floss.
All of the aforementioned symptoms could be caused by anything else, so don’t freak out if you’re especially sleepy, irritable, or thirsty for a few days. The same can be said for any of the other symptoms.
However, if they become persistent and are accompanied by other probable diabetic symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor.
A1C levels (blood sugar stability over three months) are normally checked with a blood test, and a fasting glucose test may be performed as well. You should also ask for an insulin test, because insulin levels begin to rise and remain higher than usual long before blood sugar levels do.
Changes in diet and lifestyle can help to reverse or avoid blood sugar problems. A diet rich in anti-oxidants, organic vegetables, fruits, naturally reared meats/poultry/fish, and certain natural supplements can help prevent diabetes and pre-diabetes, as well as the damage they can cause to your health.