According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prediabetes affects about 96 million American adults, or approximately one in every three Americans, with most not even knowing they have it. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus. If prediabetes is not treated, it can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The good news is that prediabetes is treatable and you can prevent prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes by following the prediabetes treatment options listed.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, then it is most likely that you had prediabetes first and may not have even known it. When you have prediabetes your body is less able to process blood sugar, also called glucose, and this can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, damage to your blood vessels, and stroke. Your body can also develop insulin resistance, which means that your cells have trouble processing glucose for energy. Thankfully, there are ways to treat and prevent prediabetes before it becomes diabetes.
What are the symptoms of prediabetes?
The symptoms of prediabetes can be very subtle and you may not even know that you have it. The main symptom is having higher than normal blood glucose levels. Besides having high blood glucose levels, you may also experience:
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Skin that is darker than normal, especially in the armpits, groin, and neck areas
- Blurred vision
- A tingling or numb sensation in your extremities
- Wounds that are slow to heal
- Frequent infections
- Being easily exhausted and experiencing fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor or health care provider so you can take a blood sugar test to determine if you have prediabetes.
What are the causes and risk factors for prediabetes?
The cause of prediabetes is not fully understood, but we do know that there are certain risk factors for it. You may be more likely to develop prediabetes if you have any of the following risk factors:
- A family history of type 2 diabetes or prevalence of prediabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Excess abdominal fat and large waist size of over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides in your blood which can harden arteries and blood vessels
- Live a sedentary lifestyle and are physically inactive
- Have an unhealthy diet consisting of processed foods, sugary drinks, red meat, and processed meat
- Being older than 45
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Smoke tobacco
- Have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- Have had gestational diabetes in a past pregnancy which puts you and your child at risk for prediabetes
- Are of a certain race or ethnicity as people of African-American, Native American, Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander heritage are more likely to get prediabetes
- Have metabolic syndrome which is a combination of your cells becoming insulin resistant and obesity
If you have some of these risk factors, please consult with your doctor about prediabetes as you may be more likely to develop it.
How do doctors diagnose prediabetes?
Your doctor can give you a physical exam and order some blood tests to determine if you are prediabetic. The most common blood tests used for the diagnosis of prediabetes are as follows:
Fasting plasma glucose test
A fasting plasma glucose test is when you have not had food or drinks except water for at least eight hours before the test and if your blood glucose level is between 100 and 125 mg/dL, then you may have prediabetes.
Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
Hemoglobin A1C test
The hemoglobin A1C test is when a small sample of blood is taken and then tested in a lab and is often used to monitor your blood sugar level over months. If the results of your test show your hemoglobin A1C level is 5.6% to 6.4% then your doctor will diagnose you with prediabetes.
If your doctor suspects that you have prediabetes based on any of these tests, they may order additional blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.
What are the prediabetes treatment options?
If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, there are treatment options available to you. The most important thing you can do is to make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and losing excess weight if you are overweight or obese. A healthy diet consists of eating whole grain foods instead of processed carbohydrates that are found in white bread, potatoes, and cereal, avoiding red meat and eating poultry or fish instead, and limiting unhealthy fats and replacing them with healthy fats found in avocados, olive oil, seeds, and nuts. Always avoid sugary drinks such as sodas to also help treat your prediabetes. These lifestyle changes can help prevent prediabetes progress to diabetes. Quitting smoking is also very healthy and beneficial for treating prediabetes as is limiting your alcohol consumption to one drink per day. Finally, if your doctor prescribes any medications for prediabetes, such as metformin, or any of its risk factors you need to take them as prescribed to help keep your blood sugar at a normal level.
There have been numerous alternative medicines and therapies that proclaim to help treat prediabetes, but there is little scientific evidence to support these claims.
Can you prevent prediabetes?
Yes, prediabetes is a preventable condition. You can prevent prediabetes by making the same lifestyle changes used to treat the condition such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, quitting smoking, and losing weight if you are overweight or obese. If you have prediabetes, you can prevent it from progressing to full-blown diabetes by making these same lifestyle changes and taking any medications that your doctor prescribes for prediabetes or its risk factors. It’s also important that you monitor and manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to keep them in a healthy range to stay healthy although diet and exercise can also help manage these levels too.
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Some of the symptoms of prediabetes include being very thirsty, going to the bathroom frequently, and feeling very tired. The risk factors associated with prediabetes include being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure, having abnormal cholesterol levels, and having a family history of diabetes among many others. You can prevent and treat prediabetes by making healthy lifestyle changes such as eating healthy food, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight. If you have any of prediabetic symptoms or risk factors, please consult with your doctor or health care provider to determine the best treatment plan or course of action for you.
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