Diabetes is a severe problem in the United States. The CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report noted an estimated 34.2 million Americans currently suffer from the disease. In the same report, the CDC estimates that 88 million Americans currently have prediabetes.
In this article, we’ll explore what prediabetes is and what steps to take to avoid this condition worsening and turning into diabetes.
What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes describes the condition that occurs prior to the development of type 2 diabetes. When someone is diagnosed with prediabetes, it means that their body is indicating a possible glucose problem, and their blood sugar may be too high.
Diabetes occurs in those whose pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to counteract ingested sugars and carbohydrates. During the prediabetes phase, insulin is being produced, but there are signs of potential insulin resistance. If allowed to progress and remain untreated, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes and require support with insulin production.
What Are the Risk Factors for Prediabetes?
While anyone can develop prediabetes, also known as borderline diabetes, certain risk factors contribute to an increased chance of being diagnosed with the condition. Here are some of the most common risk factors:
- Being over the age of 45
- Family history
- History of birthing a larger baby or having gestational diabetes while pregnant
- High cholesterol or LDL’s
- High blood pressure
Note that these risk factors do not guarantee that prediabetes will be developed; however, when they are present, additional precautions should be taken.
Health Impacts of Prediabetes
A diagnosis of prediabetes can mean severe health impacts and should always be taken seriously. Higher than normal blood glucose levels in the body can lead to multiple other serious health concerns, such as:
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney damage
- Loss of vision
- Foot damage
- Skin infections
- Alzheimer’s disease
What Are the Symptoms of Prediabetes?
It’s essential to know the symptoms of prediabetes and what to look for. By becoming familiar with potential signs of the serious condition, there is a better chance of it being treated successfully early on. Here’s what to keep an eye out for:
- Increased fatigue
- Blurry vision
- More frequent than usual urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased appetite
If you notice one or more of these symptoms occurring, especially with regularity, it’s recommended to contact your doctor to see if testing is necessary.
Prediabetes cannot be self-diagnosed, but your physician will be able to diagnose the condition easily. There are a few different ways testing is conducted:
- Glucose Tolerance Testing – For those who are pregnant, this is the most common test given. During testing, a sugary drink is provided, and then sugar levels are tested through blood draws over the course of two or more hours.
- A1C Testing – This testing type checks glucose levels over the course of three months through blood hemoglobin. Prediabetes A1C levels usually rest between 5.7 and 6.4 percent.
- Fasting Blood Sugar Test – Following an overnight or eight hours fast, blood is drawn to test resting glucose levels. Prediabetes is diagnosed when the resting glucose level is between 100 to 125 mg/dl.
Adults over 45 years of age and who present with contributing risk factors should be tested regularly for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Children are not typically tested unless they have contributing risk factors.
Steps to Reverse Prediabetes
So what do you do if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes? Once this diagnosis is given, it’s vital that steps are taken to slow down or prevent progression into type 2 diabetes. Here are eight things you can do to get on track to a healthier lifestyle and potentially reverse the prediabetes diagnosis:
- Change Your Eating Habits – Diet is directly tied in with healthy weight and blood sugar levels. If you’ve been recently diagnosed with prediabetes, consider making the following changes to how you eat:
- Choose low calorie, low-fat food options
- Reduce the amount of carbohydrates consumed
- Eat more vegetables, including lots of greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale
- Choose less-starchy options, such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta
- Significantly reduce consuming sweets and desserts
- Eat fiber-rich foods like avocado, pears, and beans
- Limit fruit to no more than three servings per day
- Choose healthy lean proteins, such as chicken and fish
- Get More Exercise – Start moving more regularly to help ward off diabetes. When you exercise, it helps to lower high blood glucose levels and can help you lose weight.
- Lose Weight – Obesity is one of the leading contributors to prediabetes. Taking intentional steps towards weight loss through changing eating habits and exercise can make all the difference. Some studies have shown that a weight loss of just five to seven percent helps reverse prediabetes.
- Drink More Water – Water helps your body keep its blood glucose levels in check. Try to avoid sodas and other sugary drinks and focus on getting in eight to ten cups of water every day instead.
- Join a Support Group – Making lifestyle changes of any kind can be difficult; it always helps when you have a little support along the way. Joining a support group for those with diabetes and prediabetes can help encourage you to stay on the right track and make good choices.
- Check-In On Your Health – When you have prediabetes, it’s crucial to check in with your physician regularly to monitor your blood sugar levels and any weight loss. Your physician can make changes and recommendations for you along your prediabetes journey.
- Reduce Your Stress Levels – When you’re experiencing high levels of stress regularly, it can lead to an increase in blood glucose levels. Following your prediabetes diagnosis, it’s recommended that you seek methods of stress reduction like meditation, yoga, prayer, and exercise.
- Sleep – Too little sleep can actually cause higher blood glucose levels! In attempts to reverse your prediabetes diagnosis, you now have the best excuse ever to get yourself on a better sleep schedule.