Prediabetes and You

Apr 28, 2016

Prediabetes is Risky

Are you among the millions in the United States who have prediabetes, a sneaky health condition that is virtually always present before a person develops type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems? More than 90 percent of the estimated 60 million people with prediabetes are unaware of their condition, according to industry reports. In addition to type 2 diabetes, the condition can lead to heart disease and problems with the kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels, says WebMD.

Although prediabetes is a serious condition, many people don’t take the health risk as seriously as they should, according to director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Division of Diabetes Translation, Ann Albright, PhD, RD. 

It’s possible to make lifestyle changes that restore blood sugar levels back to the normal range. Dr. Albright warns, however, that there is only a three-to six-year window in which to turn down elevated glucose levels. 

The trick is that there are generally no clearly identifiable symptoms of prediabetes. Diabetes specialists say prediabetes is fairly subtle for the most part.

Risk Factors for Prediabetes

Some people are more at risk than others to ultimately develop diabetes, which is a chronic disease with no known cure. Diabetes can lead to such serious complications as the conditions named above, as well as nerve damage, stroke and amputation. 

If you have any of the following prediabetes risk factors or symptoms, as identified by Mayo Clinic and WebMD, you may want to ask your physician about blood glucose screening:

  • A parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.

  • Your triglyceride level is above 250 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level is below 35 mg/dL.

  • You have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.

  • You have gestational diabetes or have had it in the past. Gestational diabetes is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy.

  • You’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal problem.

  • You are obese or overweight, especially if your weight is mostly belly fat.

  • You have a sedentary lifestyle and rarely, if ever, exercise.

  • You eat a high-calorie diet, whether from fat or sugars.

  • You are suffering from some type of heart disease.

According to Best Health Magazine by Reader’s Digest, the likelihood of developing prediabetes is increased if you regularly get less than six hours of sleep each night; if there have been signs that your body produces insulin but has a resistance to insulin, not responding as it should; and if you’ve been extremely thirsty or have noticed that you’ve been urinating more often than usual, experiencing blurred vision, or having unexplained fatigue.

How are Prediabetes and Diabetes Diagnosed?

Prediabetes is diagnosed in the same way diabetes is detected. Diabetes is an incurable disease in which the body does not properly use or produce insulin, the hormone that converts food into energy. The following are various blood tests used when testing for prediabetes and diabetes:

  • An eight-hour fast precedes the fasting plasma glucose test. You may have prediabetes if the results of the test show that your blood sugar level is higher than normal.

  • The oral glucose tolerance test also records blood sugar following a fast and then again two hours after having a very sweet drink. Two hours after the test, if your blood sugar level is higher than normal, you may have prediabetes.

  • The hemoglobin A1c test looks at average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. The purpose is to either diagnose type 2 diabetes or determine whether it is under control.

  • A random or casual glucose test does not require fasting and can be taken anytime during the daytime. If the glucose level is 200 mg/dl or over, it could be an indication of diabetes, according to Joslin Diabetes Center.

Tips for Prediabetes Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages people who are at risk for prediabetes or who have been diagnosed with the condition to pursue lifestyle changes that are recognized as effective steps toward diabetes prevention. The CDC offers a one-year program in which a trained lifestyle coach helps to make changes toward healthier eating, increased physical activity and stress reduction.

About 21 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, according to 2014 CDC statistics, the latest available. Another 8.1 million people have diabetes but have yet to be diagnosed. Indications are that these statistics will progressively worsen in coming years. 

About the Writer

Stephanie McHugh

Contributing Writer

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