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Living Fit: Could you be diabetic and not know it?

April 20, 2016

mcgoffIs it possible to be diabetic and not know it? Yes! Type 2 diabetes cases have quadrupled in the past three decades, largely (pun intended) due to our lifestyle choices. Most legal professionals are too busy to schedule an annual physical or have routine blood work performed. They keep plugging away, logging the requisite billable hours, eating and drinking too much (I’m not talking about vegetables and water), and heaping on mounds of stress as they try to figure out how to keep their clients and families “happy.”

Does this define you? If it does and you cannot answer, “What is your A1C level?” then it’s time to get your blood work scheduled and completed. The stressful billable hours and unhappy clients/family can wait a few minutes for you to have your blood drawn for a simple test that could save your life and in the case of diabetes, limbs. The following are a few answered questions to nudge you to make the call to your doctor.

What is Type 2 diabetes? It’s a problem with your body that causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than normal. Your body doesn’t use insulin properly. Initially, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for this shortfall. But over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels. Kind of like you with billable hours and the number of hours in a day — you can’t keep up.

What is A1C? It’s a blood test that reveals your average blood sugar level for the last three months. It can be fasting or non-fasting. The A1C is unlike a fasting blood sugar, which is indicative of the sugar level in your blood from the day before. With A1C, you can’t con your doctor by saying, “My blood sugar is elevated because we celebrated pie day yesterday.”

Type 2 diabetes is an “old person’s” disease, right? This is a common misunderstanding because in a simpler, healthier time, only “old people” (that number gets higher with each birthday I have) were diagnosed with Type 2. Unfortunately, due to our lifestyle choices, our children are now being diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes. The American Diabetes Association predicts the Type 2 cases among those 20 years and younger will quadruple in the next 40 years.

What are the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes? Many people have symptoms that are so mild they go unnoticed. According to the ADA, approximately one-quarter of people with diabetes in the U.S. and nearly half of Asian- and Hispanic-Americans with diabetes are undiagnosed. The most common symptoms are:

• Urinating often

• Feeling very thirsty

• Feeling very hungry — even though you are eating

• Extreme unexplained fatigue

• Blurry vision

• Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

• Pain or numbness in the hands/feet

How does A1C become elevated? The risk factors are two-fold: lifestyle choices and genetics.

• Lifestyle choices within your control: poor nutrition (carbs and sugars); obesity; high cholesterol; low good cholesterol; lack of physical movement; high blood pressure

• Risk factors not within your control: family history; member of high-risk ethnic group (Asian-American, African-American, Latino, Native-American, Pacific-Islander); delivered baby weighing greater than 9 lbs; gestational diabetes

Medicine corrects it, right? No! Many complex medical issues arise due to diabetes, such as blindness, kidney disease, amputation, nerve damage, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack and stroke. Medications have numerous unpleasant side effects. And if you are so far advanced that oral medications don’t help, who wants to get insulin shots?

Can I prevent it? Yes! There is a 58 percent reduction in your risk of being diagnosed with diabetes if you lose at least 7 percent of your body weight (15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds), but any weight loss will help.

Can I reverse it? Yes! It’s so simple, yet so hard.

• Exercise moderately (such as brisk walking) 30 to 60 minutes throughout the day, five days a week because exercise improves insulin resistance and decreases blood sugar.

• Eat protein and complex carbs at every meal and snack: 45g complex carbs per meal and 15g of complex carbs per snack with protein source.

• Reduce sugar intake in the form of added sugars — read labels!

As a health coach, I work with a lot of 20- and 30-year-olds who are amazed to discover they have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. It is an eye-opening, habit-changing discovery for many of them, thankfully! So, here you are, at the end of this article with a choice to make. As with most things in life, our actions, habits and choices define who we become and how we feel, both physically and emotionally. What are you going to do?•

Sharon McGoff is a graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, a certified personal trainer and health fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a certified life and wellness coach with WellCoaches Inc. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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