November is diabetes awareness month, and the disease definitely deserves our attention. In the U.S. over 29 million adults are diagnosed with diabetes, but according to the Center for Disease Control, one in four people with the disease don’t even know they have it!

There are also millions of people with pre-diabetes, and they are still at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease, and stroke than those with normal blood sugar. Without lifestyle changes to improve their health, 15% to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

Symptoms of diabetes may include any of the following, or none of the following:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than usual.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors are not as well known for type 1 diabetes, but autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in developing this type of diabetes.

A large study of over 3,000 people found that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by losing a small amount of weight (5 to 7% of total body weight) through 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week and healthier eating.

Of course even though it sounds simple, it can be very hard to do. Changing how we eat can take lots of thought and effort. It isn’t easy to change years of bad habits overnight. The good news is that it can be done. Start by cutting out refined carbohydrates. Specifically stop eating things that contain white flour, white sugar or white rice. Eat things that are whole-grain. These complex carbohydrates do not raise your blood sugar as high. It also provides a slower release of energy so that you feel full for longer period of time after a meal.

Contrary to what many people are told, you do not have to stop eating fruit if you have diabetes. While of fruit juices have a higher sugar concentration, the whole fruit has fiber and other nutrients that are healthy for diabetic patients. For example, eating a whole apple will not raise your blood sugar as high as drinking apple juice, and it provides a great source of anticancer phytonutrients.

If you or someone you know is looking to prevent or reverse diabetes, contact me for information on how to do it safely and effectively. We can create a personalized wellness plan for a healthier you.

Christopher Burton, MD
Christopher Burton, MD

Christopher Burton, MD is a physician, speaker, coach and author, practicing in Pensacola, FL. He specializes in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, which focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions - particularly those of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems - that may produce temporary or permanent impairment of function. Dr. Burton also provides one-on-one Health & Wellness Coaching for select clients who want to improve their life significantly. In addition to his practice and coaching, he actively lectures on health, nutrition and exercise for healthcare groups, colleges, and businesses, and travels internationally teaching on various topics including the treatment and rehabilitation of athletes.