Could you be one of the 7.2 million people that have undiagnosed diabetes?
(NaturalHealth365) With the release of new statistics from the American Diabetes Association, it’s clear that the incidence of diabetes is nearing epidemic proportions in the United States. Not only do a whopping 34.2 million adults now have diabetes – but over 7 million of them are living with undiagnosed diabetes.
Moreover, a stunning 88 million American adults currently have prediabetes (elevated blood sugar levels that progress to full-blown type 2 diabetes roughly 70 percent of the time). Even more disturbingly, diabetes may be accompanied by an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that having diabetes and/or heart disease can raise the risk of poor outcomes and mortality from COVID-19 – which continues to claim lives around the globe. When it comes to these serious health problems, ignorance is definitely not bliss – especially in these challenging times.
Warning: The insidious nature of undiagnosed diabetes can lead to irreversible harm
Type 2 diabetes results when the body does not produce or utilize enough insulin to control levels of blood sugar (glucose). Diagnosis can be made through a simple blood test, with a fasting plasma level of 126 mg/dL considered the medical threshold for diabetes.
Once diabetes is diagnosed, it can often be managed through simple lifestyle changes involving proper diet and exercise. And, yes, in the short term: your doctor may also recommend medication, such as metformin.
Yet, even with clear-cut and simple methods of diagnosis, almost a quarter of all cases of diabetes are going undiagnosed. Why?
Because diabetes is a “sneaky” disease that progresses very slowly. Experts say that it can take up to a decade to develop – and, by the time symptoms finally appear, irreparable damage may have already occurred.
In other words: poor blood sugar control can lead to serious, irreversible complications years down the road.
Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease
According to the American Heart Association, complications of diabetes can include coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis. Unsurprisingly, adults with diabetes may experience up to a four-fold increased risk of death from heart disease.
In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and hospitalization in people with type 2 diabetes. But it is not only the heart that can be affected. Diabetes takes a grim toll on the entire body.
Other complications of undiagnosed type 2 diabetes include neuropathy (nerve damage), kidney disease, retinopathy, blindness, erectile dysfunction, gastroparesis (the slowed movement of food to the intestines) increased risk of gum disease and heightened susceptibility to bacterial and fungal skin infections.
Poor circulation exacerbated by diabetes can also cause damage to the feet, necessitating amputations.
Do you know the symptoms and risk factors of diabetes?
The first line of defense against diabetes, in addition to timely blood tests, is familiarity with the symptoms. These can include frequent urination, excessive thirst, unintended weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow wound healing and tingling or burning sensations in the hands and feet.
Dry, itchy skin – and areas of darkened skin in the folds and creases of the body – can also signal the presence of diabetes.
If you are experiencing symptoms of diabetes, ask your doctor for a blood test. Turning 45 is also an occasion to be tested, with the ADA recommending routine re-testing every three years – even if your blood sugar is normal.
Keep in mind, risk factors for diabetes include having prediabetes, being overweight, being age 45 or older, having a sedentary lifestyle, having hypertension, having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes and having high triglycerides or low levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. Individuals of African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American or native Alaskan descent are also at higher risk of developing diabetes.
Additional danger: 3.7 million Americans have an undiagnosed heart condition
Some heart conditions are asymptomatic before becoming apparent. According to the American Heart Association, three of the most common heart conditions are bicuspid aortic valve disease, arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle dysfunction.
Of course, regular check-ups through your primary care physician can help detect heart problems.
While cholesterol and blood pressure readings are useful starting points to evaluate heart health, your doctor may also recommend an ultrasound, MRI or stress test. Naturally, if you or your doctor has specific concerns about your heart health, see a cardiologist.
When it comes to heart attacks, research reveals that men and women can experience vastly different symptoms. While severe chest pain is considered the “classic” sign in men and women alike, women may also experience under-recognized symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, cold sweats, fatigue and pain in the jaw, neck or back.
If you have these symptoms with no identifiable cause, call 911 immediately.
Under-diagnosed conditions may be skewing our perceptions about the lethality of COVID-19
Experts report that over 94 percent of people dying from COVID-19 have underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. This would imply that the remaining 6 percent of people losing their lives to COVID-19 were free of underlying health problems.
Yet, the perception of healthy people dying from COVID-19 may be misleading. With so many instances of undiagnosed heart disease and diabetes in the United States, isn’t it quite possible that these people were not as totally “healthy” as they appeared?
In any case, one of the most important and sensible things we can do to battle COVID-19 is to protect ourselves from the comorbidities that the virus can exploit.
As noted endocrinologist and diabetes expert Dr. James Dudl puts it: “All (diabetes) complications are preventable. And, the treatments are safe.”
In other words, even if we take COVID-19 “out of the picture,” identifying and dealing with undiagnosed diabetes is still a definite win/win. Save yourself from premature death, take better care of your health today.
Sources for this article include: