Prediabetes: A Call to Action
You've been told you have prediabetes. What does that mean? Will diabetes be next? Learn more about taking control of your condition.
If your doctor has said you have prediabetes, you may not feel too concerned. But don't take it lightly. Although prediabetes is not diabetes, it is a warning sign that diabetes may lie ahead.
Prediabetes can be a slippery slope to diabetes. An estimated 20 million people in the United States have diabetes. Another 54 million have prediabetes. Each year, some of these people will progress to full-blown diabetes. Many of them won't even realize it.
The good news is that diabetes can often be prevented. Learn the simple steps you can take to protect your health.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes means your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes tends to get worse over time. If you have prediabetes, there is a good chance that you will get diabetes within the next 10 years unless you take steps to prevent it.
Your body's cells need glucose (sugar) for energy. But the cells can't use glucose unless they also have insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. Having prediabetes means your body isn't making enough insulin or has trouble using insulin. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.
Even before your blood sugar rises high enough to be diabetes, it may cause lasting damage to your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease.
How will I know I have prediabetes?
You probably won't know unless you get tested. Prediabetes usually doesn't cause any symptoms. You can have diabetes without knowing it because the symptoms can come on so gradually that you may not notice them.
A blood test can show if your blood sugar (or plasma glucose) is above normal. Your doctor can use either of two tests, which are done after you have fasted all night:
•Fasting plasma glucose. For this test, your blood is tested first thing in the morning. A result between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL means you have prediabetes.
•Oral glucose tolerance. For this test, your blood is tested first thing in the morning and again two hours after you drink a sugary drink. A result between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL means you have prediabetes.
Who should be tested for prediabetes?
The American Diabetes Association says it's a good idea for anyone over 45 to be tested. If you are older than 45 and overweight, testing is highly recommended.
If you're younger than 45 and overweight, your doctor may want you to be tested if you have any other risk factors for diabetes, such as:
•Lack of exercise
•High blood pressure
•High triglycerides and/or low HDL (good) cholesterol
•A family history of diabetes
•A history of gestational diabetes, or have given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
•Belong to a high-risk ethnic group (African-American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander)
Prediabetes doesn't have to become diabetes. Research has proven that diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle changes. In fact, some people can get their blood sugar levels back to normal.
To prevent diabetes:
•Lose some weight. Losing just 5 percent to 7 percent of your weight can make a big difference in your blood sugar. For a 200-pound person, that's only 10 to 14 pounds.
•Increase your physical activity. Moderate exercise, like walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can reduce your blood sugar and also help you lose weight.
Just making these two changes can cut your risk of getting diabetes in half. They can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Talk to your doctor about how to start exercising and making healthy food choices that can help you lose weight.