Some Common Warning Signs of Diabetes
• Excessive urination and thirst
• Feeling very hungry, even though you are eating
• Frequent infections of the skin, gums
• Vision disturbances; blurred vision
• Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands or feet
• Slow healing of cuts and bruises
• Extreme fatigue
• Abnormally high glucose
I recently ate out with a friend of mine. After I had ordered my sandwich and side, I listened to her carefully place her order. She took great pains to not stress out the server and be labeled a difficult customer, but she had some very particular food choices. Sauces and dressings on the side, no salt added during cooking, substitute broccoli for fries, grilled with no extra butter. When it was all said and done, I was much more interested in her creative meal than my boring old sandwich combo.
It turns out that during a routine physical exam, her glucose tolerance test came back very high. This had never happened before. She was aware of her family history of diabetes so an alarm went off in her head and that alarm screamed “diabetes.”
Diabetes, in simple terms, is a condition that renders your body unable to handle carbohydrates in the normal way. There are two types of categorized diabetes (Type I and Type II). Type I used to be called childhood diabetes and was seen in in about 20% of cases. It happens when a person’s own immune system attacks the cells of the pancreas that normally synthesize the hormone insulin. Type II is when the pancreas makes too much insulin and the body takes up the glucose too slowly. Regardless of which type, the results are the same: inadequate or ineffective insulin leaves blood glucose high and cells undersupplied with glucose energy and this causes blood vessel and tissue damage.
Because of her “scare” and her understanding of her own family history, my friend was able to change her eating habits. She reduced her consumption of fried and fatty foods. She increased her consumption of whole grain foods. She reduced her overall intake of salt. She increased her daily dose of fruits and vegetables. Simple changes my friend made to her diet because… she controls her own food choices. As she put it, if a dietary change can’t hurt and it might help, why not make it? She has lost 28 pounds and, when she went back to her doctor, her glucose tolerance test came back normal.
November is Diabetes Awareness month. Diabetes isn’t contagious and there is no immunization for it. This is a disease that, according to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 30 million children and adults in the US have. Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing diabetes. Recent estimates in fact project that as many as one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050 unless we make changes.
These are alarming trends but, when you consider the impact of our daily food choices, you understand why. And you understand that it affects each of us. But each of us has the power to examine our food choices and make changes within our reach.
Ask yourself: Why is it when we are faced with making food choices, we flounder? Why does it feel so much harder to order the grilled chicken salad rather than the fried chicken sandwich? Why do we feel our plates must be large so we can be full? Why are French fries more appealing than fruit?
This month, in celebration of National Diabetes Awareness month, let’s make some positive changes. Choose one food choice that you can make an immediate change to and do it — all month. Do it as a family or as a friend thing. Do it when you are eating out or cooking at home. Whether your food choice be portion size, salt, fat, or carbohydrate control, make a small change. You will be amazed at the big difference it will make.
Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects and has led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.