Diabetes: Know the Warning Signs and How to Prevent It

| Sarah Johnson MS, RD, CFP

November is Diabetes Awareness Month; a time to increase awareness of an issue that affects 1 in 11 Americans. If you do not have diabetes, it can be easy to think this month does not apply to you. However, every 21 seconds someone in the United States is diagnosed with diabetes, and half of those living with pre-diabetes right now are unaware that they are at risk.1 

Early detection is crucial for your health, so today we are going to look at what warning signs you should be on the lookout for in yourself and your loved ones, as well as what 3 simple habits can be adopted this month to decrease your risk. 

Know the Warning Signs:

Symptoms of diabetes can range dramatically.  Knowing what to look for can help with early detection.  Here are a few of the top symptoms to watch for:2

  • Frequent Urination: 4-7 times a day is the norm. If you notice a significant increase in your patterns, be sure to let your doctor know.
  • Increased thirst: If you are experiencing unquenchable thirst, this is a hallmark sign of diabetes.
  • Fatigue and/or increased hunger:  While you may be eating and sleeping enough, if you have diabetes, energy from food cannot enter the cell – leaving you craving more food and feeling more fatigued.  
  • Unexplained weight loss: When insulin is not working properly, glucose (sugar) cannot enter your cells, so your body starts using protein and fat for fuel which leads to weight loss.
  • Increased number of infections: Are you experiencing more frequent yeast infections, or noticing that your cuts are taking longer than normal to heal?  This could be a symptom of high blood sugars.

Implement these 3 Health Habits:

Small changes can often lead to big results.  Here are 3 healthy habits to start this Diabetes Awareness Month.

  1. Fill up on Fiber:  Adding fiber can be an easy way to keep those blood sugars in check.  Research shows us that increasing fiber intake, particularly something called soluble fiber found in beans, nuts, seeds, bananas, avocados, and many other fruits and vegetables, leads to improved blood sugars.3
  2. Get Moving:  While the idea of losing significant weight or taking on a full workout plan can be overwhelming; the good news is that even moderate movement can have a significant impact on your health.  Movement is key in the prevention and control of prediabetes, gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and diabetes-related health complications.  To reap the benefits, start where you can- a short walk, small weights or bands, and move forward – working up to at least 20 minutes of movement a day.4
  3. When cravings hit…. ride the wave! We know that eating a balanced diet is one of our best lines of defense against diabetes, however it can be hard when there are temptations everywhere as holiday season approaches.  When urges to overeat arise, it can feel like the only way to get rid of the temptation is to give into it – but research shows us that is not the case.  Urge Surfing is the name that has been given to the mindfulness approach of how to get through an urge, without giving into it.  Like a wave, urges build up to their crest, and then fall.  As the urge builds, it feels like it is going to go keep going up and getting stronger unless you give in.  When you feel the urge and act on it, your brain then makes the connection that giving in is the only way to make the feeling stop.  Research shows us that regardless of whether your give in or not, the urge lasts about 20 minutes.  This means that the urge and the feeling will pass EVEN IF YOU DO NOT GIVE IN.5 So, the key to this, is to find distractions for 20 minutes.  Do not simply sit staring at the clock.  Get up and go for a 20-minute walk, wash your face, brush your teeth, call a friend.  What you do is not important as long as it requires you to move a little bit.  Keep in mind “Motion Changes Emotion.” 

In the spirit of National Diabetes Month, spread the word – please share what you have learned with those you love. 

Sarah Johnson LYL Registered Dietitian

Sarah Johnson MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with a strong passion for helping people discover the healing power of food.

Today’s world offers more nutrition information at our fingertips than ever before. However, when it comes to nutrition, there is no one size fits all solution leading many to feel exhausted by years of “trial & error”. Sarah’s mission is to help people weed through the noise and to educate and empower them on simple ways food can help them regain their energy for life. She believes your body was designed to work well; you simply need the tools to get it back on track.

Sarah graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a B.A. in Dietetics and went on to receive an M.S. in Human Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin Stout where she focused on using nutrition to help those living with multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory diseases.

Sarah lives in Mahtomedi with her husband and 3 children and loves the access to nature Minnesota living provides all year round.


1November is National Diabetes Awareness Month – UAB Medicine News. November is

National Diabetes Awareness Month – UAB Medicine News – UAB Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.uabmedicine.org/-/november-is-national-diabetes-awareness-month.

2Type 1 diabetes – symptoms. Type 1 Diabetes – Symptoms | ADA. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-1/symptoms.

3Chandalia, M., Garg, A., Lutjohann, D., von Bergmann, K., Grundy, S. M., & Brinkley, L. J. (2000). Beneficial effects of high dietary fiber intake in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. New England Journal of Medicine, 342(19), 1392–1398. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejm200005113421903

4Colberg, S. R., Sigal, R. J., Fernhall, B., Regensteiner, J. G., Blissmer, B. J., Rubin, R. R.,

Chasan-Taber, L., Albright, A. L., & Braun, B. (2010). Exercise and type 2 diabetes: The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: Joint Position statement. Diabetes Care, 33(12). https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-9990

5Urge surfing: A distress tolerance skill. Columbus Park. (2016, July 6). Retrieved November 2, 2021, from https://columbuspark.com/2016/07/06/urge-surfing-a-distress-tolerance-skill/.

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