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Holiday gluttony can spell disaster for undiagnosed diabetics

Hearty feasts and couch-potato marathons are holiday traditions, but UT Southwestern Medical Center experts warn that packing on pounds and not exercising could be deadly for the 6 million Americans who have diabetes and don't even know it.

Diabetes, a metabolic disorder linked with obesity, can be a silent killer because its symptoms aren't sudden, but build up over time and lead to heart disease or other maladies.

That's bad news for those with undiagnosed diabetes.

"The obesity epidemic is surging and people don't realize they're setting themselves up to develop diabetes. They're like ticking time bombs," said Dr. Manisha Chandalia, an endocrinologist at UT Southwestern. "Without treatment, high levels of blood sugars in the body can damage blood vessels and nerves over time, leading to high cholesterol, hypertension, stroke, kidney disease and amputations."

If you are age 40 or older, obese, lack physical activity or have a family history of diabetes, Dr. Chandalia recommends making time during the holidays to visit a doctor for a diabetes test. Symptoms include excessive thirst or hunger, dramatic weight loss, fatigue, frequent urination or blurry vision.

The holidays also are a perfect time to start getting healthy, she said, offering these tips:

  • Set consistent meal times. Avoid fast food.

  • At parties, cut food portions in half or don't eat large portions of food, even healthy food. Eat skinless chicken or turkey.

  • Use low-calorie ingredients when making treats.

  • Exercise regularly. Go on walks to see holiday displays.

  • If you are an appropriate weight for your age, maintain your weight. In certain ethnicities, such as Asians, even modest weight gain can set the stage for developing diabetes.

Long-term tips include:

  • If you are overweight, try to lose 5 percent to 7 percent of your body
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Source:UT Southwestern Medical Center


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