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The advice and opinions of this author are not intended as medical advice. Please check with your own personal medical practitioner before initiating or changing treatment for any condition
The development and progression of diabetes is slow and insidious. However, as Dr. Robert Atkins observed through decades of evaluating patients with blood glucose abnormalities, it can be divided into six distinct stages. His observations are similar to those of researchers published in the March 1992 issue of Diabetes Care.
The first four stages are milestones on the road to diabetes. The fifth and sixth stages are diabetes itself:
Screening: Too Little Too Late
Dr. Atkins knew from observing numerous patients that the standard blood glucose tests do not detect the presence of insulin and glucose changes early enough. It is recognized that damage can begin well before standard test results are abnormal. This makes it a priority to recognize and evaluate people at risk even before the metabolic syndrome is well advanced.
To find out which patients would benefit most from more intensive testing, a review of the information obtained on questionnaires along with the number of blood glucose-related symptoms can be of help (see below).
What Is the Glucose Tolerance Test?
The glucose tolerance test, with insulin levels, or GTT, as performed by Dr. Atkins, can identify people who are already experiencing elevated insulin levels (stage 2) even before the blood glucose level is abnormal enough to cause symptoms. There is strong evidence that high insulin levels themselves cause inflammation in the blood vessels as well as in the brain. Researchers from the University of Washington theorize that high levels of insulin may also contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. And high insulin levels can increase cancer risk as well increasing fat storage.
Many practitioners are often frustrated when trying to impress upon their patients the need for a change in lifestyle. Demonstrating an abnormal blood-test result can make a more significant impact on your patient than a theoretical discussion. When confronted with abnormal results, the patient may more easily understand why permanent lifestyle change is necessary if he or she is to avoid diabetes, heart disease and perhaps other devastating illnesses.
It is especially helpful to instruct patients to record the time and symptoms experienced during the GTT to later correlate with changes in blood glucose and insulin. This can help patients better understand that a number of frequent symptoms they are experiencing are diet-related and can be managed simply by making better food choices.
Common Low Blood Glucose Symptoms
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.