Talking To Your Doctor About Pre Diabetes and the First Signs of Diabetes

Are you worried that you may be seeing the first signs of diabetes? If so, you really need to start talking to your doctor about it.

Talking to Your Doctor

How’s your health these days?  Is it everything you’d hoped it would be at this stage in life?  Many people approaching, or just over, the age of 40 suddenly face a wide range of health concerns they’ve never encountered before. 

One of those concerns might be pre diabetes – how it impacts your health, and how to approach your doctor about the condition.  Speaking to a health professional about a serious medical condition can seem intimidating, but being prepared ahead of time will smooth the way for a productive exchange of information.

So, how do you have this conversation in a way that feels comfortable, and without feeling like you’re lost?  This page outlines some rules of the road, and gives you a few things to consider before you have that important talk.

Are you at risk for developing pre diabetes?  Pre diabetes is used to describe the condition when you meet some, but not all, of the requirements for a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

There are many people who have pre diabetes, but don’t know it.  It’s estimated that nearly 80 million Americans aged 20 years and older have pre diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Education Program.

Understand The Pre Diabetes Landscape Before Your Talk

First things first:  learning as much as you can about pre diabetes should be at the top of your list.  Being informed will allow you and your doctor to intelligently discuss lifestyle changes to prevent pre diabetes from going into full-blown Type 2 diabetes.

However, it’s also important to note that the medical profession, in the broadest sense, does not always agree on how to approach the prevention or treatment of pre diabetes.  

While some doctors discuss lifestyle changes early on and believe prevention is the best cure before the first signs of diabetes, others may wait to act until a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes is made.  Some doctors may encourage the use of alternative healing practices, while others may not entertain the thought.  Whatever the case, you need to be fully empowered to participate in your own pre diabetes care and repair. 

“Pre-diabetes is also very treatable, and if you have it, there is a good chance you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by making changes in your diet and increasing your level of physical activity.”   -- John Muir Health

Five Important Steps That Make Talking To Your Doctor About Pre Diabetes Easier And More Productive:

While doctors are generally very well trained, they cannot read your mind!  A doctor cannot feel what you feel, doesn’t know your familiar aches and pains, and likely doesn’t know every single inch of your medical history. 

Here are five important steps that can help you connect the dots for your doctor and ask about the possibility of pre diabetes or the first signs of diabetes:

  • Create a list of symptoms that may be first signs of diabetes as they occur and bring the list with you to your next appointment.  Walking into a doctor’s office can be nerve-wrecking to say the least.  This is especially true if a pre diabetes diagnosis is on your mind.  When nerves strike, the mind can go blank.  Several days before your appointment, write down any symptoms you’d like to discuss.  Make sure you bring the list with you.
  •  Keep a list of all medications.  This means not only prescription drugs and over-the-counter-medications, but also herbal remedies, supplements, and vitamins. Bring this list with you to your next doctor’s visit.  This is very important.  Some herbal remedies and prescription medications should not be mixed, so do let your doctor know what, if anything, you are taking.
  •  Write down questions you have about your health to share with your doctor.  You can never ask too many questions.  Don’t be afraid to bring a notebook with you so can jot down important points the doctor raises.  Always ask the doctor for his or her e-mail.  That way, you can follow-up if any other questions come to mind about any possible first signs of diabetes that may occur.
  • Tell your doctor how you feel at different times of day, if you notice a difference.  This is similar to keeping track of your symptoms, but is more specific about the possible first signs of diabetes.  Take note if you feel a certain way in the morning, at night before bed, or before and after eating certain foods.  Note your energy levels and general mood.  Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes vary from person to person but may include things such as frequent urination, blurry vision, excessive thirst, and unexplained and extreme tiredness.  In comparison, pre diabetes symptoms are often much more subtle and can masquerade as general tiredness that many associate with the stress of life and getting older.  However, as the pre diabetes threshold gets closer to Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, symptoms become more obvious.  If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, now is the time to have that discussion with your doctor.

Keep regularly scheduled appointments with your doctor so that you’re both on top of any troubling health changes before they become problematic.  While this can be a challenge for many people, regular appointments with a health professional are so important.  It is very easy to get busy, ignore pleas from family and friends, and even ignore your own intuition about the first signs of diabetes.  Don’t.  Just go and take care of yourself.  People are counting on you.

“Many people go to the doctor ready to just listen and let the doctor take the lead.  But the best patient-doctor relationships are partnerships.”   -- National Institutes of Health

Specific Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor About Pre Diabetes:

By now, you probably have plenty of questions buzzing around in your mind.  Sometimes it’s difficult to sort them out, or even know if you’re asking the right ones.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to understand your condition or the first signs of diabetesall at once.

If you are diagnosed with pre diabetes, your doctor will likely provide you with some relevant literature, and schedule a follow-up appointment in a few days or weeks to discuss your condition, what it means for your lifestyle, and what your treatment options are.

Sometimes, your doctor will prescribe dietary changes, schedule meetings with a nutritionist or dietician, encourage exercise – perhaps even a personal trainer, recommend limiting carbohydrate intake and occasionally prescribe medication to help regulate blood sugar.  Most of the time, however, with a pre diabetes diagnosis and the first signs of diabetes, your doctor is going to focus on preventing an escalation to full Type 2 diabetes.

While waiting for the follow-up appointment, it’s a good idea to write down a list of questions or additional first signs of diabetes as they come to mind.

The more you learn about pre diabetes, the more questions you’re likely to come up with.  Some you’ll answer during the course of your research and some will remain.  A good idea is to write down the questions you have in a special notebook and cross them off as you discover the answers.  Then when your appointment time arrives, you’ll have a few important questions ready to discuss with your doctor.

The following questions are great to help you learn more about your doctor’s treatment style.  You’ll also learn how aggressively he or she will work to prevent a definitive diabetes diagnosis in your future.  You can ask:

  •  Will your current medications, if any, have an impact on your pre diabetes treatment?
  •  Will you be required to take more medications as part of the treatment?  If so, what are they and how might they interact with other medications?
  •  Are there any alternative or natural treatment methods for pre diabetes that do not involve medication?  If so, what do you recommend?
  •  Will you also check to see about hormonal abnormalities, or nutrient deficiencies?

Keep in mind, you can always take along a friend, family member or caregiver to help you communicate your concerns with your doctor or get answers to pressing questions.

  •  What kind of changes do you make to prevent or delay diabetes?
  •  Is weight a contributing factor?  If so, how much?
  •  What can you do to lose weight and keep it off? 
  •  Are there any special considerations around blood sugar levels and exercise?  What is important to know?
  •  Do you have a recommendation for a nutritionist, particularly one that is well versed in whole foods nutrition?
  •  How can stress affect blood sugar levels? 
  •  Are there other warning signs you need to know about?

What if Your Doctor Isn’t Listening to Your Wishes?

Some physicians resist alternative treatments to any condition even after the first signs of diabetes, especially one with the serious long-term health implications of pre diabetes.  

That being said, you have to be the one to take control of your health.

You’re the one who will be following doctor’s orders.  If your doctor isn’t giving orders you’re interested in following, or willing to follow at all, then you need to find a doctor who at least listens to your concerns about the first signs of diabetes that you are experiencing.  

For example, if you doctor is primarily interested in prescribing medication, but you want to try and reverse pre diabetes naturally, then find a health professional who respects that wish and supports lifestyle change as a first defense.

What you really want is a doctor who explains the risks and rewards on both sides of the argument. Whether you convince the doctor to agree with your wishes or not, it’s important that you work with a doctor or health coach who is at least hearing what you have to say.

If your current physician isn’t that doctor, then it’s time you find one who is. Ask around for recommendations if necessary and seek out a doctor or health coach who is willing to listen to your insights, accepting of alternative health treatment options and dedicated to preventive medicine rather than offering only reactionary treatments.

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