You Could Have Prediabetes and Not Even Know It
You may be developing the early warning signs of diabetes, but there’s still time to make healthy changes that can reverse the trend.
By Margaret O'Malley
Medically Reviewed by Kelly Kennedy, RD
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Picture this: At your annual physical your doctor sits you down to explain the results of your blood tests. You hear the words, “You have prediabetes.”
Your first reaction is likely to be shock or even disbelief. You feel fine. Sure, you could afford to lose a few pounds. But prediabetes? That sounds serious.
A diagnosis of prediabetes means that your blood screening showed that your blood-sugar level is higher than normal — but not so high that it indicates type 2 diabetes. Without proper lifestyle changes to bring blood-sugar levels under control, prediabetes is likely to progress to type 2 diabetes within 10 years. And the damage that high blood sugar can do to your heart and circulatory system may already be beginning.
You're are at risk for developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher
- Are inactive
- Are age 45 or older
- Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
- Are African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American, or a Pacific Islander
- Have high blood pressure
- Have low levels of HDL, or the "good" cholesterol
- Have high levels of triglycerides (a type of fat) in your blood
Diabetes causes excess blood sugar to build up in your blood instead of going into your cells. Over time, this can lead to a variety of complications, including eye, kidney, heart, and circulatory problems. Reversing prediabetes is all about managing the blood-sugar levels in your blood.
Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Blood sugar — also called glucose — is a substance that your body manufactures from the food you consume. It travels to your cells, where it provides nourishment and energy. A hormone called insulin, which is secreted in the pancreas, controls the glucose levels in your blood. Insulin also signals your liver to metabolize — or process — glucose.
When this system is working as it should, your blood-sugar levels stay steady and within a narrow range. When you become prediabetic, this complex interaction of substances in your body begins to work less efficiently — either because your pancreas doesn't make enough insulin, your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, or both.
What You Can Do About It
Does the progression from prediabetes to diabetes have to happen? No. There are simple things you can do that may reverse the trend and bring your blood-sugar levels back into the normal range. And the good news is that these changes will make you feel and look better, too.
You’ll need to:
No one’s saying that lifestyle changes like these are easy — but avoiding diabetes is worth every donut you pass up and every staircase you climb. Furthermore, these are lifestyle habits that everyone should embrace (whether you have diabetes or not) to live a long and healthy life.
If you think you're at risk for type 2 diabetes, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) want to help. It's important to know you're not alone: 86 million American adults have prediabetes -- and most don't even know it.
Video: My prediabetes story: Sherronda Jamerson
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