Learn from a registered dietitian how to stay on top of your health.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recognizes November as American Diabetes Month with a focus on ringing the alarm on the diabetes epidemic. In Michigan, the ADA states, over 1 million residents have diabetes.
There are four main types of diabetes: type 1, which is insulin dependent; type 2, the most common form — which means your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or it resists insulin; gestational diabetes — diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy; and prediabetes — meaning you have higher-than-normal blood glucose, according to Lisa Wittenberg, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator (R.D.N, C.D.C.E.S) with over 20 years of experience.
Wittenberg, of the Metro Detroit Jewish community, expresses the importance of learning about diabetes and what you need to know to safeguard your health.
“Ninety-six million American adults, more than one in three, have prediabetes, and 80% don’t know they have it,” Wittenberg says.
The CDC states that prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. ADA estimates one out of every three children born after 2000 in the United States will be directly affected by diabetes.
“You can get type 1 diabetes at any age, but it usually develops in children, teens or young adults,” Wittenberg adds.
An Ounce of Prevention
Diabetes doesn’t affect the Jewish population more than any other, it does affect a lot of people throughout the country, says Wittenberg, and there are ways to get ahead of your health, starting with a visit to your doctor.
“Most people are getting a physical once a year in hopes to prevent or find problems before there are problems,” she said.
Before a visit with your physician, Wittenberg suggests, ask for a fasting blood sugar (FBS) test where you fast for eight hours prior to your appointment to properly check your blood sugar levels. Wittenberg says if your doctor notices that your blood sugar is elevated, you might need to take another test called HbA1C, which tests your blood sugar levels over the past three months.
“When you’re in a range of 5.7 to 6.4, that’s called prediabetes. If you’re under 5.7 that’s normal. Anything above 6.4 or if you hit 6.5, we call that diabetes,” she says. “If you have elevated fasting blood sugar, your doctor may do further testing to diagnose diabetes such as retest for FBS and send you for a glucose tolerance test.”
Common symptoms of diabetes are urinating often, feeling very thirsty, feeling very hungry — even though you are eating — and extreme fatigue. While there are no clear symptoms for prediabetes, Wittenberg says you can take charge of your health by learning about proper nutrition and diet for a healthier lifestyle.
“There are factors that put people at higher risk for prediabetes,” Wittenberg says. Those risks are being overweight, over the age of 45, not being physically active or having a family member with type 2 diabetes.
If you find out you have prediabetes or have been diagnosed with any type of diabetes, Wittenberg expresses the importance of getting your information from a trusted source like a doctor or a registered dietician.
“I think the No. 1 thing is to not be afraid,” she says. “You are your best advocate. It’s our responsibility as patients to make sure we see our test results and ask to know and understand our numbers. We need to ask questions and not just wait for the doctor to tell you if everything is OK.
“Either way, if you get diagnosed with any type of diabetes, with the right doctors and care, you can have a good quality of life, but it all starts with awareness and asking the right questions.”