Do you know how to spot the signs of prediabetes?
Physicians diagnose someone as prediabetic when their blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. CDC research indicates that one in three adults are prediabetic, and of those 96 million adults, 80 percent are unaware of the condition.
Prediabetes often goes undiagnosed because of its ability to hide in the shadows. Often, the only way people discover they have prediabetes is through blood testing performed during a yearly checkup with their physician.
However, as a lifestyle coach, you need to be aware of the possible warning signs of prediabetes that show themselves most frequently. Without the proper context, these warning signs may seem like typical changes due to age or a different routine, but you will notice the red flags if you know what you are looking for.
We want you to be the best lifestyle coach possible at Realizing DPP, and that means you need the tools and know-how to help your participants stay on top of their diagnoses. So if you’re looking for ways to grow your toolkit, you’re in the right place.
Today, we will look at the risk factors associated with prediabetes, warning signs that someone may have the disease, and how to slow, stop, or reverse the progression of prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes.
Know the Prediabetes Risk Factors
Before we look into the warning signs associated with prediabetes, knowing the risk factors is essential. Helping your participants understand the risk factors of prediabetes gives them the power to know how their lifestyles and routines affect insulin uptake and blood sugar levels.
Some common risk factors of prediabetes include, but are not limited to:
- Obesity/Being Overweight: Overweight individuals are susceptible to becoming prediabetic because an excess of fatty tissue can cause their cells to become more resistant to insulin.
- Increased Age: People aged 45 or older are more likely to develop prediabetes.
- Physical Inactivity: Activity is critical to preventing diabetes, and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to prediabetes.
- Family History: The risk of prediabetes is higher if your participants have family members with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
- History of Gestational Diabetes: If your participants developed gestational diabetes — diabetes symptoms while carrying a child — in the past, they are at a higher risk of becoming prediabetic.
For your participants to be proactive about their prediabetes diagnosis, they need to begin by addressing the risk factors they have control over. That means they should stay active, eat healthy foods, and find effective ways to maintain weight.
In addition to lifestyle and healthy habit changes, you need to encourage your participants to maintain regular checkups with their physicians. Blood testing is the best way to identify if someone is prediabetic, so your participants must see their doctor regularly.
Be Aware of the Warning Signs of Prediabetes
As we said earlier, prediabetes is a challenging diagnosis to notice because the warning signs are difficult to detect — especially in its early stages.
However, symptoms will arise the longer prediabetes goes untreated. When that happens, you need to be ready to help your participants make the right decisions to stop prediabetes in its tracks.
#1: Frequent Urination
If the body is not absorbing glucose properly, it looks for ways to expel the excess glucose, or blood sugar, from the bloodstream. One of the first places the body starts to remove excess glucose is through the kidneys.
Excess glucose is passed to the bladder as urine to excrete the extra sugar when the kidneys cannot keep pace with elevated blood sugar levels. This process naturally results in more frequent urination and is why an increased number of restroom trips throughout the day are a warning sign of prediabetes.
Are your participants drinking an average of two liters of water daily and making more than seven trips to the restroom? If so, there’s a possibility that your participant falls in the prediabetic classification.
#2: Increased Thirst
Frequent urination and increased thirst are symptoms that go hand in hand. As the kidneys divert more water through the bladder to expel glucose, the rest of the body loses water. The lack of water throughout the body causes dehydration to occur.
If your participants notice that they are becoming increasingly thirsty, this may be due to the expelling of excess glucose through the bladder and is a sign of prediabetes. Coincidentally, an increase in the amount of water your participants consume will also contribute to frequent urination.
Take note that your participants will worsen their dehydration if they go for a sugar-filled beverage such as soda, juice, or even a sports drink to quench their thirst. Helping them steer in the direction of drinking water will give them a better chance of beating dehydration and feeling better throughout the day!
#3: Increased Hunger
A lack of insulin or insulin resistance within cells can create a chain reaction that makes a person feel more hungry. Increased hunger happens because cells cannot receive the proper amount of glucose they need to function correctly without insulin. As a result, the brain tells the body that it needs more food.
Increased hunger poses significant issues for prediabetes patients because their cells are resistant to insulin absorption. The body thinks it will receive the nutrition it needs, but instead, it only creates an even higher blood sugar spike because the insulin-resistant cells prevent glucose absorption.
The key here is to help your participant direct their hunger in the right direction. Low carbohydrate options, including some fruits and non-starchy vegetables, are great options to help them beat their hunger and reduce glucose levels at the same time!
Tiredness associated with prediabetes happens on a cellular level. Because people with prediabetes cannot take in the proper amount of glucose, the body’s cells are not getting enough fuel to function. Additionally, elevated blood sugar levels can cause inflammation throughout the body, which translates as a sign for rest.
If you have a participant struggling with increased tiredness, it is a warning sign that they are experiencing symptoms of prediabetes. It can be challenging, but you need to encourage them to get up and moving, even if they feel tired. Sometimes, a little extra activity is what people need to get over that feeling of exhaustion and even lower their blood sugar levels.
#5: Blurry Vision
Elevated glucose levels can cause swelling in the eyes and surrounding tissues. When left untreated, this swelling can eventually cause blurry vision and possibly develop into diabetic retinopathy.
However, working with your participants to make healthy lifestyle choices that lower glucose levels will aid in preventing diabetic retinopathy. Always remember that the little steps you take with your participants along the way help them open doors to a better life while preventing serious conditions related to diabetes from arising.
#6: Slow Healing Cuts and Wounds or Frequent Infection
As blood sugar levels rise and maintain an elevated rate, circulation slows down, and white blood cells struggle to function correctly. The result is a longer healing time for cuts and wounds with an increased chance of infection.
It may be more challenging to spot this warning sign as you interact with participants, but keep an eye out for any new cuts or scrapes on your participants while you meet with them.
Also, if you notice that they are not dressing their wounds appropriately, offer to help. Teaching your participants how to clean and dress their wounds correctly will ensure that they have the best chance of healing.
#7: Tingling, Numbness, or Pain in the Hands or Feet
In addition to poor circulation, people with prediabetes may also experience tingling, numbness, or pain in their hands or feet. This numbness results from high blood sugar levels causing damage to nerve cells, resulting in neuropathy.
If you’re working with a participant who complains of their hands or feet “falling asleep,” be sure to ask how long the feeling lasts and if it happens frequently. More frequent occurrences could be a sign of prediabetes, and you should encourage your participants to visit their physician to take a diabetes test if the feeling continues.
#8: Itching and Yeast Infections
When someone’s body becomes insulin resistant, the elevated blood sugar levels create an environment that allows yeast to overgrow. Yeast lives naturally on the skin and near mucous membranes to help regulate bacteria levels. And in a glucose-rich environment, yeast can grow out of control — resulting in a fungal infection.
The most common sign of a yeast infection is itchiness, and they often occur on mucous membranes and other moist areas of the skin such as the mouth, genitals, and armpits. If your participants bring up the fact that they’ve been itchy in these areas during your sessions, offer possible over-the-counter solutions to help them treat the infection.
#9: Patches of Dark Skin
People with insulin-resistant cells can develop areas of dark, velvety discoloration in folds of the skin. Some of the most common areas where this condition — called acanthosis nigricans — develop include the armpits, groin, and neck.
This condition often occurs in the late stages of prediabetes, but it can also signify a cancerous tumor on rare occasions. There is no particular treatment for acanthosis nigricans, but your participants may be able to restore the skin to its original color if they treat the underlying condition.
#10: Unintended Weight Loss
Weight loss is a key to reversing prediabetes, but if it occurs without any significant diet or exercise changes, your participant should be concerned. In individuals with prediabetes, unexpected weight loss can occur because the cells are not receiving the proper nutrition they need.
If you notice that one of your participants is experiencing rapid weight loss, ask yourself these questions. Have they adjusted their diet and exercise routine or been under extra stress lately? If you can answer “no” to both of these questions, they may be showing a warning sign of prediabetes.
Counteract the Warning Signs of Prediabetes with Realizing DPP
We know that your participants' physical health and success are at the top of your priority list as a lifestyle coach. There are many factors to consider when helping your participants be the best versions of themselves. Still, you can consistently implement two strategies to help them reverse prediabetes: proper diet and exercise.
If you’re looking for effective ways to help your participants lose weight, become healthier, and prevent diabetes, we can help. At Realizing DPP, we want to make the world a better place by protecting the value and quality of human life through lifestyle care programs like the DPP.
Our lifestyle coach community of current and past coaches is dedicated to building each other up and supporting each other so that everyone can excel with their participants and change lives. We offer exclusive access to lifestyle coaching questions you can’t find on Google, opportunities for you to grow as a coach, and the tools you need to earn money in coaching.
If you are a lifestyle coach in Mississippi and not a current member of the Realizing DPP community, contact us to learn more today!