Here is a very interesting fact. Approximately 1 in 3 people worldwide have prediabetes. Even more interesting is that about 90% of these people do not even know that they have prediabetes. This could be me or you. Do you know if you have prediabetes?
Prediabetes is increasingly becoming more and more common. The sad fact is that it is poorly diagnosed as many people do not even screen for it. Prediabetes is a real condition that poses serious health risks to an individual. It puts you at a risk of developing type-2 diabetes and other conditions like heart diseases and stroke. Prediabetes therefore critical for you to know what prediabetes means and how to prevent it.
What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes simply means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not as high as it would be if you have diabetes. If you have received a diagnosis of prediabetes it means that you are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Prediabetes therefore important to take prediabetes seriously and make necessary and lasting lifestyle changes. Make lifestyle changes now in order to delay or prevent type-2 diabetes.
Prediabetes may also be referred to as borderline diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance (higher than normal blood sugar after a meal), or impaired fasting glucose (higher than normal sugar before eating).
What Causes Prediabetes ?
Prediabetes develops when your body does not respond adequately to a hormone called insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas. This hormone helps your body to take glucose (sugar) from the blood into the cells to give them energy.
When your body does not respond properly to this insulin (a condition call insulin resistance), it becomes hard for your cells to use up the sugar from you blood resulting in increased blood sugar levels. The cause of this is largely not known. It has however been linked to genetics and lifestyle factors.
Prediabetes can also occur when your body cannot make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar levels at a desirable level. You therefore build up too much sugar in your blood and if it is not high enough to a level of the diagnosis of diabetes, a diagnosis of prediabetes is made.
What are the symptoms of prediabetes?
Type-2 diabetes is a condition that develops gradually starting at the prediabetes stage. Most people with prediabetes do not have symptoms at all. Some people do develop symptoms of diabetes such as
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Increased urination
- Losing weight despite eating more
- Blurry vision
You may also experience symptoms associated with insulin resistance such as polycystic ovarian disease and acanthosis nigricans. Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition presenting with thick dark patches of skin commonly at the knuckles, elbows, armpits, knees, or neck. It can be a sign of progression from prediabetes to diabetes.
Because people with prediabetes usually do not present with symptoms, it is important to know your risks of developing this condition so that you can act on time.
What are the risks of developing prediabetes?
As discussed earlier, the cause of insulin problems associated with prediabetes is not known. However, there are factors that increase your chance of developing prediabetes. If you have these risk factors, it would be good for you to get yourself screened for prediabetes.
Family history: if you have a close family member with diabetes or prediabetes, you are more likely to develop the condition as well.
Belly fat: increased belly fat is another risk factor for prediabetes. You have belly fat if you have more fat around the waist than the hips. Your waist circumference should be less than 40 inches if you are male and 35 inches if you are female.
Age: age is also a risk factor for prediabetes. If you are more than 45 years, it is advisable for you to screen for prediabetes. This risk increases if you are more than 65 years old.
Weight: obesity and being overweight are significant risk factors of having prediabetes. A body mass index (BMI) of higher than 25 is not healthy and is associated with insulin resistance.
Physical inactivity: lack of physical activity is often associated with weight gain hence prediabetes. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, controls your body weight and reduces your body fat.
Gestational diabetes: if you had developed diabetes at some point while you are pregnant or had a baby weighing 9lb (4kg) and above, you are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Certain ethnic groups: there are certain ethnic groups that are considered to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes. These include Indian- Americans, African-Americans, Alaska Natives, Asians, Latino.
Certain health conditions: hypertension or BP >140/90, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) all put you at a high risk of developing prediabetes.
Do I have prediabetes?
To avoid or delay the diagnosis of prediabetes, whether you have risk factors or not, it is a smart move to test for prediabetes.
The following tests are used to detect prediabetes or diabetes:
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
With this test you are given 75 grams of glucose solution to drink. A blood sugar test is then done before taking the sugar and after 2 hours. You have prediabetes if your blood sugar reads 140-199mg/dl
Fasting Blood Glucose Test
This test requires fasting for at least 8 hours before doing it. A blood glucose test is then done after this. You have prediabetes if you blood sugar is 100-125mg/dl
This test measures your average sugar in the blood for the past 3 months and is measured in percentage. The test does not require any fasting to be done. A health care personnel will draw blood from your vein for lab analysis. There are also home A1c tests which are quick and easy to use. Always correlate a home A1c with a doctor’s visit. You are prediabetes if your results are between 5.7 and 6.4 %. The higher you percentage is, there high your risks are of developing type-2 diabetes.
Be vigilant and test. The only way to know if you have prediabetes is to test. All the tests above are easy to do and do not require much from you.
How is prediabetes treated?
The first step to treating prediabetes is to understand what prediabetes is and what the diagnosis means. Healthy choices do help prevent prediabetes. Lifestyle changes are the hall mark to treating or preventing this condition. If you are not yet diagnosed with prediabetes, it is time to start making healthy choices now. If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, it is not too late to change. This condition can be reversed. For those with the hereditary component, progression to type-2 diabetes can be slowed down by doing the following:
Exercise regularly: 30mins of brisk walk at least 5 days in a week
Lose weight: aim for BMI<25
What are the complications of prediabetes?
If left untreated, prediabetes can develop into type-2 diabetes sooner or later. Other conditions associated with prediabetes are:
- Neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Foot infections leading to amputations
Make the right choices now. Prevent prediabetes by eliminating all the risk factors associated with this condition. Start being active, choose your food wisely and get screened for prediabetes.
If you have any question or comments you are free to leave them in the comments section and I well be very happy to help you.